|Blue Jackets look to ride momentum into matchup vs. Penguins|
Two teams that hope they learned something from their most recent game clash Thursday when the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins meet at PPG Paints Arena.
The Blue Jackets topped the NHL's best team, the Washington Capitals, 5-2 on Monday. It not only broke a four-game losing streak, but it also provided something of a blueprint for how Columbus wants to play.
Ryan Murray, who scored against the Capitals, called it "our best game for sure. We got those goals, some funny bounces and bad-angle shots -- things that weren't going in before. ... We just had a great team effort."
The Blue Jackets, 10 points behind Pittsburgh and trying to avoid dropping into the basement of the Metropolitan Division, had been feeling a combination of snakebitten and not quite up to snuff before Monday.
"It's good we played well, and we actually won," said Oliver Bjorkstrand, who also scored against Washington. "Now it's a test to keep it going and not take a few steps back. We've got to keep moving forward and play good hockey.
"We know we can play with the good teams. We've just got to do it on a consistent basis."
On Monday, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella reunited a trio that played well last season -- Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson -- and did his best to match them against Washington's big line that includes Alex Ovechkin.
"That was an important line," Tortorella said.
Perhaps those three will see time against the Pittsburgh top line of Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust.
Regardless, Tortorella sees his team's upcoming stretch as critical to setting up the second half of the season.
"It's a dangerous time here for us, here until Christmas," he said. "We've got to find a way to solidify ourselves and play the right way consistently."
Pittsburgh, conversely, is hoping its most recent game is a one-off.
The Penguins have managed to keep their heads more than above water during an incredible stretch of injuries -- including core muscle surgery that has forced team captain Sidney Crosby to miss the past month.
Tuesday, Pittsburgh fell flat in the second period, giving up three goals en route to a 4-1 loss to Montreal.
That ended a three-game winning streak and a 10-game home point streak.
It also was a departure from the responsible style the team had been forced to adopt with some key players missing.
"It hasn't happened very often where we beat ourselves," said Guentzel, who had his team's lone goal. "I think it was one of those nights where we weren't playing simple. We weren't getting behind their (defense). And they took advantage of it."
The danger, of course, is that the Penguins could start to slip into a funk that might have seemed inevitable after weeks upon weeks of playing without key players.
Pittsburgh will be looking to get back to the style that has worked, and that includes good, old-fashioned grinding.
"You've got to get your nose over pucks, and you've got to be willing to (battle) and protect pucks," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
And avoid lulls, even if for one period, as with the loss to Montreal.
"Everyone in the league is good, so you have to be good every period," Pittsburgh winger Dominik Kahun said.
--Field Level Media