The Pittsburgh-Columbus exhibition game at Nationwide Arena last night was a surprising nail-biter, going into overtime with a score of 4-4 at the end of the third period. Columbus Prospect Ryan Murray scored the game-winner off an assist from R.J. Umberger with just 21.2 seconds left before going to shootout. Murray missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, but his minutes in last night’s game prove he’s ready to earn his spot on the Blue Jackets’ roster.
Both teams played a particularly physical game, drawing penalties and trading power plays throughout the game. Forward Evgeni Malkin, playing on a line with James Neal and Beau Bennett, seemed to spend half the game fidgeting in the penalty box. Joe Vitale and James Wisniewski threw down late in the game; Wisniewski landed a few big hits that will likely have the Penguins keeping an eye on Vitale over the next few days. Newcomer defenseman Ilari Melart also traded fists with Adam Payerl.
For the Penguins, Neal opened the game with an early goal, followed shortly by a power play for the Blue Jackets that ended in a tie-maker for Artem Anisimov. Chris Kobasew –hungry for a spot on the roster — scored twice for Pittsburgh, once in the first period and once to tie it up again in the third after two power-play goals from Columbus.
Cam Atkinson skated well on a line with Marian Gaborik and Anisimov, trying out the left wing. Clearly the position suited him, if his beautiful goal in the third period is any indication. The Bennett-Malkin-Neal line looked good as well. Bennett has repeatedly proven himself worthy of playing top-line, and despite a few shaky moments, he lived up to that reputation last night.
Preseason games are typically used by coaches to try new lineups and give rookies or newbies a chance to stretch their legs, so although the Blue Jackets certainly earned the win, last night’s score shouldn’t necessarily be used as a barometer for the season. Both team’s rosters lacked many of their biggest names (most notably Sidney Crosby).
Columbus surprised just about everybody last year by coming devastatingly close to making the playoffs, so all eyes will be on the team to see if they can keep the forward momentum going this season.
Here are the complete rosters for both teams:
Forwards: Anisimov, Atkinson, Bass, Comeau, Dubinsky, Gaborik, Letestu, Little, Skille, Smith, Umberger, Vogelhuber
Defensemen: Goloubef, Murray, Melart, Nikitin, Savard, Wisniewski
Goalies: Dansk, McElhinney
Forwards: Flass, Hobasew, Jeffrey, Neal, Bennett, Ebbett, Letourneau-Leblond, Sill, Farnham, Payerl, Vitale, Kuhnkachi, Malkin
Defensemen: Niskanen, Scuderi, Harrington, Dumoulin, Mikkelson, Samuelsson, Pouliot
Goalies: Fleury, Zatkoff