Penguins rout Blue Jackets in forward Rickard Rakell’s debut

Rickard Rakell probably won’t make or break the Penguins’ hopes of winning the Stanley Cup.

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Acquired via trade on Monday, the All-Star forward is a supplement to the Hierarchy that has been entrenched with this organization for more than 15 years.

The Blend of skill and speed Rakell possesses is expected to augment what the likes of franchise Pillars such as forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang already provide.

“We believe he can play with our guys,” Coach Mike Sullivan said. “That was one of the biggest things that we talked about leading up to it was he brings a certain skill set that we think is complementary.”

There was plenty to compliment about the Penguins’ play in Rakell’s debut as they bludgeoned the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-1, at PPG Paints Arena. Several of their established incumbents drove the Penguins to one of their more thoroughly convincing wins of the season.

Rakell was eased into the lineup. Primarily deployed on the third line, he logged 14:08 of ice time on 17 shifts and registered two shots on three attempts. He even stepped in on a single faceoff and won it.

A day after the Penguins added him through a trade with the Anaheim Ducks, Rakell did not physically arrive in Pittsburgh until Tuesday morning. Additionally, they had missed three games as a member of the Ducks due to injury before being traded. So Sullivan did what they could to avoid overtaxing his new winger.

“I thought he played a solid game,” Sullivan said. “It wasn’t an easy circumstance. He’s coming in on a red-eye (flight), there wasn’t a lot of sleep, there wasn’t a lot of rest, he’s coming across the country. That’s a tough challenge. ”

The Blue Jackets posed a challenge early in this contest and took the first lead 8:37 into regulation with a power-play score. From the right point, Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski cranked a one-timer on the net. Goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped the shot initially but allowed the rebound to trickle Loose behind him in the blue paint and Blue Jackets forward Gustav Nyquist, hounding the crease, crashed in and pushed the Puck into the cage with a backhander for his 16th goal of the season . Werenski and forward Jakub Voracek had assists.

After that, it was all Penguins thanks to a four-goal outburst in the second period.

First, at the 2:40 mark, forward Radim Zohorna collected his second goal. Claiming a Loose Puck in the Blue Jackets’ high slot, Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel dashed to the left Circle and lifted a wrister on the net that goaltender Joonas Korpisalo fought off. Penguins forward Brian Boyle, battling Blue Jackets defenseman Dan Kukan above the crease, kept the Puck free by chopping a forehand shot on the net that Korpsikalo rejected. The ensuing rebound bounced to the front of the blue paint where Zohorna leaned down and chipped in a forehand shot. Boyle and Ruhwedel registered assists.

The Penguins took the lead only 36 seconds later. From low on the left wing, Penguins forward Jake Guentzel forced a pass attempt to the front of the crease for linemate Evan Rodrigues who was entangled with Blue Jackets defenseman Jake Bean. After the Puck hit off Rodrigues’ right skate, Crosby claimed the Puck between the hashmarks, maneuvered toward the left Circle and slipped a Tricky pass to the right of the crease for Guentzel who plunked in an easy wrister to reach the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career. Assists went to Crosby and Rodrigues.

“Just to be able to get 30 goals in this league is pretty special,” Guentzel said. “It’s hard to score goals. I’m pretty lucky to play alongside some really good players. It makes it easy. It’s a cool number and hopefully, they keep coming. ”

Offense kept coming for the Penguins as forward Bryan Rust made it a 3-1 contest at the 7:27 mark with his 21st goal. Settling a high pass from Malkin in the neutral zone, Rust gained the Offensive blue line, surged through a stick check from Blue Jackets forward Cole Sillinger and attacked the net from the left Circle. With Korpisalo deep in the cage, Rust scooted through the blue paint and deposited a forehand shot past the goaltender’s left skate. Malkin and defenseman Brian Dumoulin collected assists.

“That was a tremendous goal, just the hands that he had there,” Guentzel said when asked to evaluate the display by Rust. “The way he scores goals now, he’s coming a long way. “It’s a special goal.”

An ugly goal by Guentzel put the Penguins up by a field goal at 14:06. Gaining the Offensive zone on the right wing, Crosby backhanded a pass across the zone to defenseman Mike Matheson who dealt it back to Crosby in the right Circle. Settling the Puck with his right skate, Crosby hurried a forehand shot that was partially blocked by Werenski’s stick. The Puck glanced off Guentzel’s left glove and clumsily bounced off the far post into the cage. Crosby and Matheson were credited with assists.

Malkin got in on the act with a five-on-three power-play goal at 8:54 of the third period. After Crosby won a draw in the left Circle of the Offensive zone against Blue Jackets forward Sean Kuraly, Rust controlled the Puck on the near wall and slid a pass to the right Circle for Malkin who gripped and ripped a wrister past Korpisalo’s Blocker on the far side for his 12th goal. Rust and Crosby had assists.

Jarry made 26 saves on 27 shots as his record improved to 32-12-6 in his 50th game of the season while Rakell got a Victory in his first game with his new team.

“A lot going on the last 24 hours,” Rakell said. “But it’s been awesome. Just coming here, the warm welcome that I got from the whole organization with players, staff, it’s been great. It was probably for the best to rip the Band-Aid off and get to play right away. I had a lot of fun. The legs (weren’t) the best I felt.

“But it was great just to get right back into it and be around the guys and get the win in this game.”

Notes:

• With Rakell, a 10-year Veteran, joining the team, Zohorna, a Rookie, changed his jersey number to 63 and allowed Rakell to take on his customary 67.

• Zohorna became the second player in franchise history to wear No. 63. The first was forward Tim Wallace.

• Rakell became the fourth player to wear No. 67 for the franchise. He was preceded by defenseman Alex Goligoski, forward Paul Bissonnette and Zohorna.

• Rust (262 points) surpassed forward Robert Lang (261) for 32nd place on the franchise’s career scoring list.

• Dumoulin (113 points) surpassed forward Shawn McEachern (112) for 78th place on the franchise’s career scoring list.

• Malkin (1,131 points) surpassed former St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings forward Bernie Federko (1,130) for 59th place on the NHL’s career scoring list.

• Penguins forward Brock McGinn (suspended right arm or hand) and defenseman Mark Friedman (healthy) were scratched.

Follow the Penguins all season long.

Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff Writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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