Penguins beat Jackets in overtime thriller
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Pittsburgh Penguins battled back to force overtime and picked up a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who still got the point they needed to clinch a playoff spot for the second straight season.
The Penguins answered every Columbus goal in regulation before Phil Kessel scored 1:06 into overtime to get the 5-4 victory in a tight game before an amped-up sellout crowd.
“We were resilient tonight,” Kessel said. “We’ve been here before.”
Columbus entered the game needing one point in the standings and earned that when it forced the overtime. They’ll go to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.
“It’s a little bittersweet because it’s Pittsburgh, and you don’t want to lose to them,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “But in the big picture for our team, for our guys, I am really happy for them.”
The Penguins and Blue Jackets are second and third place, respectively, in the Metropolitan Division with playoff positioning not likely to be settled until this weekend.
Columbus is tied with New Jersey — which beat Toronto on Thursday — with 97 points, but the Blue Jackets hold the tiebreaker.
Conor Sheary tied the game at 12:16 in the third period to set up the overtime winner by Kessel, whose shot from the left circle was his second goal of the game and 33rd of the season.
Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang also scored, and Matt Murray had 26 saves for Pittsburgh, which completed a 4-0 season sweep of Columbus.
“We have such great leadership,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “These guys, they play their best when the stakes are high. They’ve proven it time and time again.”
Zach Werenski, Matt Calvert, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson scored for Columbus, and Sergei Bobrovsky had 38 saves.
Werenski put the Blue Jackets up 1-0 five minutes into the game when he gathered a centering pass from Pierre Luc-Dubois and backhanded the puck between Murray and the near post. Kessel went top shelf over Bobrovsky on a power play to tie it at the halfway point of the first period.
A few minutes later, Calvert danced around Penguins defenseman Olli Maata and lifted a shot over Murray’s shoulder. Hornqvist knotted it again at 15:35 when he batted a bouncing puck past Bobrovsky’s glove.
The Blue Jackets scored on a power play in the second period when Jenner connected from the slot off a sweet centering pass from Thomas Vanek.
Early in the third period, Pittsburgh tied the score yet again when Letang clanged one in off the top bar from the right circle. Atkinson made it 4-3 when he poked a shot in from the doorstep 8:25 into the third.
Sheary tied the score again with a shot that Bobrovsky deflected with his glove.
“We showed a lot of character there, finding ways to hold on and get back into it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
“They’re a team that really builds on leads, especially at home, so we did a good job of finding ways to get ourselves back in it and even it up pretty quick.”