It took the reigning Vezina Trophy winner going down for the Columbus Blue Jackets to record back-to-back shutouts for the first time in more than three years.
They’ll have their hands full trying to make it three straight Monday night when they visit the high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins.
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In Columbus’ 1-0 win over the Lightning on Tuesday, Curtis McElhinney came off the bench when starter Sergei Bobrovsky suffered a lower-body injury, stopping eight shots in the final 15:47 to secure the victory. McElhinney then turned away all 20 shots in a 4-0 victory over the Wild on Friday.
The Blue Jackets’ last back-to-back shutouts came in November 2010.
“It’s a good feeling for me to step in here again and have another shutout game, another win,” McElhinney said. “Hopefully, it’s the start of something good and we can keep it going.”
McElhinney will be in net a lot for the Blue Jackets in the near future. The team placed Bobrovsky on injured reserve because of a groin strain, and he is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
The Penguins (20-10-1) have injury issues of their own, as defenseman Brooks Orpik had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher during Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Boston after being pulled down and punched by the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton. Orpik was alert when he arrived at a local hospital and flew back home with the team, but it’s unclear when he’ll be back on the ice.
“I think (Orpik) was (unconscious) on the ice for a period of time,” head coach Dan Bylsma told the team’s official website. “I think that means he has a concussion, for sure.”
Pittsburgh blew a 2-1 lead in the final 90 seconds to lose in regulation, but it wasn’t focused on the end of its five-game winning streak.
“Everyone was kind of worried,” center Sidney Crosby said. “It’s hard to think about hockey when you see someone get hurt like that, especially a teammate and friend. We heard that he’s OK, doing pretty good. But it was definitely tough.”
Pittsburgh will attempt to halt Columbus’ shutout streak with an offense that averages an Eastern Conference-best 3.03 goals and leads the league by scoring on 26.6 percent of its power play chances, but it may be short more than just Orpik.
Evgeni Malkin remains day-to-day after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury, and James Neal is facing a Monday phone hearing and likely suspension for striking Boston’s Brad Marchand with his knee while Marchand was on the ice.
Those two have combined for 57 points in 45 games.
Malkin and Neal are two of four Penguins with at least 20 points, while the Blue Jackets (12-14-3) have only one player, Ryan Johansen, with that many. Johansen chipped in two assists and four players scored Friday as Columbus won for the third time in four games.
“You could see the confidence start to grow on the team,” coach Todd Richards said. “We did some good things, and that’s something to build off of.”
The Penguins won both previous meetings this season, 4-2 in Pittsburgh on Nov. 1 and 3-0 the next night in Columbus. Malkin had three assists in the two games.