National Hockey League

Penguins, Blue Jackets fighting for first win

nhl1BLUE JACKETS (0-1-0) AT PENGUINS (0-1-0)

One team will come away with its first win of the season Saturday when the Columbus Blue Jackets play at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Columbus lost its season opener Friday, 4-1 at home against Toronto.

The Penguins’ season-opening loss was particularly disappointing — a 3-1 setback at home to Buffalo on Thursday in which their play was perhaps worse than the final score.

Shortcomings that led to the Penguins’ first-round playoff sweep last season at the hands of the New York Islanders — things Pittsburgh thought it had addressed properly — were again on display.

Coach Mike Sullivan, even a day later, lamented that “there was a lot of isolated effort, not cooperative effort.”

The Penguins were tagged with 17 giveaways, allowed 41 shots and yielded several odd-man breaks and breakaways.

“I know this team is capable of being better,” Sullivan said.

Evgeni Malkin, who scored Pittsburgh’s only goal, was pointed in his assessment.

“We need to play hungry. We need to play faster. Every puck, we need to win,” Malkin said. “It’s not good for us how we played. We need to change.

“Exhibition games are done. It’s real games right now. It’s for sure a wake-up call. We need to understand every team is dangerous right now. … We need to learn (from) how we played and play better, for sure. Like, 100 percent better.”

Columbus will be seeking a win for this season and overall in Pittsburgh. The Blue Jackets have lost seven straight games at PPG Paints Arena, their last win there coming Nov. 13, 2015.

The Blue Jackets launched into a back-to-back situation right away. After opening Friday at home, they are headed to Pittsburgh for their second game a night later.

Pittsburgh is expected to go with No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray — “He was our best player” against Buffalo, Sullivan said — but it’s less clear who will start for Columbus.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was one of three key players the Blue Jackets lost in free agency, along with prolific forwards Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchesne.

There is not a declared No. 1 between Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. Korpisalo started in net Friday against Toronto and stopped 25 of 29 shots against the Maple Leafs. With games on successive nights, it might seem logical that Merzlikins would go against Pittsburgh, but coach John Tortorella wasn’t saying.

Tortorella also doesn’t want to dwell on the players Columbus lost now that the page has been turned.

“You guys are going to (tick) me off if you start going down the road and start talking about the people that have left here,” he roared at reporters recently.

Still, Columbus will need to search elsewhere for scoring, perhaps from captain Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner, Riley Nash or Cam Atkinson — who got the team’s only goal Friday.

“I’m not really worried about where goals are going to come from,” Foligno said. “I look around the (locker) room and there’s plenty of candidates to score goals. I just think it’s exciting that it’s going to be more by committee. We’re going to be built a little differently, but that’s going to bode well for offense and defense.”

–Field Level Media

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