All Penguins on deck for 7-2 embarrassment of Blue Jackets
December 5, 2010 10:00 AM
Paul Vernon/Associated Press
Tyler Kennedy drives a slap shot past Blue Jackets goalie Mathieu Garon in the Penguins' seven-goal night in Columbus, Ohio.
Matt Cooke takes Columbus' Marc Methot to the ice early in Saturday night's 7-2 victory.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A beating this brutal should be written about in a police report.
The Penguins' 7-2 victory against Columbus at Nationwide Arena Saturday night wasn't a hockey game. It was a vivisection.
Could it possibly have been as easy as the Penguins made it look? Probably not. Then again, it might have been even easier than it seemed, since the Blue Jackets took one of their rallying cries -- "Raise the Flag" -- to heart after a strong showing in the first few minutes of play, and ran a white one up the pole.
"It's embarrassing for myself and my teammates," Columbus forward R.J. Umberger said.
The victory puts the Penguins' winning streak to nine games and raises their record in the past 12 to 11-0-1.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby kept a streak of his own alive, getting two goals to give him at least one point in 15 consecutive games.
All of which delighted the capacity crowd of 19,143, a healthy percentage of whom were sporting Penguins colors. Blue Jackets supporters were sprinkled into the mix -- several dozen, at least -- but they had little reason to make their presence known. Or stand up. Or do much of anything except wince.
"It's a nice building to come into," Penguins center Mark Letestu said, smiling. "Fans are pretty friendly."
Columbus was coming off what goalie Steve Mason called "an embarrassing effort, from all standpoints" during a 5-0 loss in Buffalo 24 hours earlier. It seemed embarrassing before Saturday evening, anyway. By the time the Penguins built a six-goal lead, the Sabres game had to be looking like the good old days.
The Penguins built a 35-23 edge in shots -- including a 16-2 advantage during the first 20 minutes -- and Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel ended up using both of his goalies, Mason and ex-Penguin Mathieu Garon. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, not at the same time.
The Penguins played without forward Evgeni Malkin, who got an apparent knee injury Thursday in a 3-2 victory against Atlanta. He had been excused from practice Friday but made it through the game-day skate Saturday with no obvious difficulty.
"It's not a structural problem or anything," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's just been banged up."
His injury did not prevent Malkin, wearing shower sandals, from going onto the ice a couple of hours before the game to exchange passes with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, a pre-game ritual of theirs.
The Penguins didn't need Malkin on this evening, however. And not just because winger Eric Godard, who replaced him, picked up an assist, matching Malkin's point production from the previous five games.
Not having to worry about containing Malkin presumably was a relief to the Blue Jackets. Too bad they couldn't figure out how to stop Paul Martin and Mike Rupp. Or Tyler Kennedy and Deryk Engelland. Or even how to slow them down a bit.
Those four accounted for five of the Penguins' goals, including two by Martin. Both, like the one by fellow defenseman Engelland, were unassisted.
Well, technically. The Blue Jackets helped out on several Penguins goals, like when defenseman Mike Commodore deflected a Martin pass to Pascal Dupuis behind Mason for the Penguins' first goal.
Or when Commodore set a sensational screen that gave Garon, who replaced Mason after it was 4-0, no chance to stop Engelland's slap shot from the right point on goal No. 7.
Columbus actually started strong, and all-star left winger Rick Nash dropped Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik by shouldering him into the boards just 20 seconds into the game.
"We fully expected their best, after what they thought was a poor effort the night before," Letestu said. "We expected a 'response game' out of them. For the first couple of minutes, it was."
But when Commodore put Martin's pass into the Columbus net at 6:43, the Blue Jackets wilted.
"Up to that point, they were winning some physical battles," Rupp said.
After that, Columbus won an occasional faceoff. Rupp, Martin and Crosby scored before the intermission, and Kennedy, Crosby and Engelland scored during the final 40 minutes.
The Penguins also managed to avoid picking up any injuries or bad habits after the game was out of hand.
"You try not to look at the score, you try not to look at the situation, and we did a pretty good job of that," Bylsma said. "That's a difficult thing to do, at times."
Like everything else on this night, the Penguins made it look awfully easy.