The Nationwide Arena erupted in celebration last night as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 7-2.
Yes, you read that correctly. Chants of, “Let’s go Pens!” overpowered whatever encouragement disheartened Columbus fans were sending their team’s way.
The score gap was wide from the get-go, as the first period came to a close at 4-0. A lack of close competition tends to be dull, but Pittsburgh fans who made the three-hour trip into Columbus got to see something truly exciting, as last night was the night for the underdogs to shine.
Paul Martin scored two unassisted goals, his second and third of the season. He was not the only defenseman to light the lamp, as Deryk Engelland scored his second of the season, also unassisted. Mike Rupp logged his second of the year as well, with assists from Eric Godard and Craig Adams; and Tyler Kennedy put his fifth in the net with help from Mark Letestu and Chris Conner.
The unusual amount of away-game energy definitely had an effect, and everything seems to be coming up roses for the Pens as all the parts begin to function as whole.
Martin and Engelland bumped the defensive squad’s contribution to 72 points so far this season. Kris Letang continued his stellar season by adding two assists last night, bringing him to a total of 26 points.
Evgeni Malkin sat out to recover from Thursday’s game, a win at home over the Thrashers, due to an aggravated injury. Although he only has 22 points so far, his absence is undoubtedly felt by the team and replacing his commanding energy was a joint task.
“It’s about opportunity and guys stepping up to the plate and adding when they can, and certainly thus far the guys have done a great job,” Assistant Coach Todd Reirden told Dan Potash during the second intermission.
The third line of Kennedy, Letestu and Conner has had outstanding chemistry and was clearly up for the job.
These days, it’s impossible to avoid mentioning Sidney Crosby, who now has points in 15 straight games with his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. When the Captain is flying this high, the rest of the team gets a boost as well. The Pens are 12-2-1 during this streak, with nine victories in a row.
Everything is clicking, making room for players we don’t regularly see on the score sheet to step into the spotlight. The Pens’ power play is continuing to improve, with three out of four chances capitalized on last night.
The Blue Jackets, unfortunately, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, even if that place was home. Having been outscored 22-8 in five straight losses including last night’s, they were in no shape to face Pittsburgh’s momentum.