Goalie's firm hold at Consol Energy Center loosened by Penguins



Hours before his team's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma dubbed it the "Consol Curse."

The Penguins didn't need any leftover eye of bat or witch's brew from Halloween to break it.

In a 4-2 win Friday, they battered Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who had been 5-1 in regular-season games at Consol Energy Center.

Bobrovsky still has the most wins of any opposing goalie in the building, which opened in 2010, but it was the resident goaltender who prevailed Friday.

Marc-Andre Fleury made a season-high 37 saves -- many of them coming in bursts as Columbus set up shop repeatedly -- and became the first NHL goaltender to reach 10 wins this season.

"I thought Marc-Andre was, without question, the best player on the ice," Bylsma said.

The Penguins had been good about holding shots against down -- at 25.3 a game, they ranked third in the NHL entering the game -- but the Blue Jackets kept Fleury busy.

Fleury, who at times this season has gone long stretches without seeing a shot, especially early in games, called this game "fun. ... It was good to get into the game."

During those times when the Blue Jackets were firing shot after shot at him, Fleury wasn't counting.

"I just tried to get in front of the puck, make a save and then try to get in front of it again for a second save," he said. "I don't think too far ahead. I just go for it."

The Penguins, meanwhile, made the most of their shots early.

Chris Kunitz, although tied up by Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson in front of the net, deflected a Paul Martin shot past Bobrovsky for a power-play goal and a 1-0 lead at 7:11 of the first period.

Sidney Crosby got the play going by winning a faceoff and sending the puck to Martin at the right point. The assist increased Crosby's league-leading point total to 22 in 14 games.

Tanner Glass corralled a puck off the boards in front of the Penguins bench and set up Brandon Sutter for a shot from the right dot that slid under Bobrovsky's pads for a 2-0 Penguins lead 1:10 into the second period.

"Coming in, I felt the puck bounce a bit and tried to get a shot off and it went in, so I'll pretend like I wanted to shoot it there, but a goal's a goal," Sutter said.

Just 1:51 later, Sutter set a screen in front of Bobrovsky and Kris Letang's shot from the top of the left circle glanced off of Columbus defenseman Dalton Proust and was bobbled by Bobrovsky on its way over the goal line for a 3-0 Penguins lead.

It was unfamiliar territory for Bobrovsky, whose five wins in the Penguins' 3-year-old building all came when he was with Philadelphia.

"I think playing in this building put him on the map," Bylsma said.

By the time the second period was barely three minutes old, though, a sensitive GPS would have found Bobrovsky at the end of his team's bench, having been chased after Letang's goal as the Penguins scored three times on their first 13 shots.

"I think a lot of it was, we were opportunistic -- 13 shots, we had four goals," Bylsma said. "We did a good job of going to the net."

The Penguins greeted Blue Jackets relief goaltender Curtis McElhinney with a goal by rookie Jayson Megna at 5:34 of the second period, giving them three goals in 4:24 and enough of a lead to withstand Columbus, thanks to Fleury.

"I don't think we were happiest with the way we played on the whole, but a win's a win, and good teams find ways to win those," Sutter said. "But without [Fleury] it might have been different story."

Fleury stopped the first 20 shots he faced before Derek MacKenzie slipped a puck inside the left post after a pass across the top of the crease by Nick Foligno to pull the Blue Jackets to within 4-1 at 9:58 of the second period.

Ryan Johansen lifted a puck over Fleury with 45.1 seconds remaining in regulation for the final score.

The teams meet again tonight in Columbus. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards declined to name a starting goalie.

"That's something that I'll give some thought to on the plane ride home," he said.

At least one Columbus player campaigned for Bobrovsky.

"He's bailed us out time after time," former Penguins center Mark Letestu said. "If anybody gets a mulligan, he's the guy. We know he works his tail off. We know it's not for a lack of effort. Sometimes, you're just not on top of your game.

"If anybody is going to get back on it quick, it's him."


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published November 1, 2013 9:40 PM

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