Penguins defensemen Jack Johnson, Justin Schultz come through in Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Pittsburgh Penguins scored a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night thanks, in part, to a strong effort from the de facto top defense pair of Jack Johnson and Justin Schultz.
If you closed one eye and squinted with the other, they looked a lot like the injured No. 1 defense pair they were replacing.
A stay-at-home defender on the left side who uses reach and positioning to keep opponents out of scoring areas. An offensively talented puck mover on the right unafraid to join the play in any area of the ice.
That usually describes Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang. On this night, it described Johnson and Schultz.
“They’re two completely different types of players,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Jack’s a stay-at-home defenseman. He’s really good at the net front. He’s strong. He can lean on people. He’s good in battles. He’s a steady, stay-at-home defenseman.
“Schultzy’s a mobile guy that gets back to pucks, that makes a good first pass, that joins the rush. He’s active off the offensive blue line. Schultzy’s a guy that gets involved a lot in the offense, both off the rush and off the offensive blue line in zone.
“When you have one that’s a stay-at-home guy and can make sure that he’s back, I think it complements.”
Three days after they both topped the 30-minute mark Saturday in Philadelphia, Johnson and Schultz each played at least 26 minutes Tuesday night. Their shot-attempt numbers were middle of the road, but their lines on the official stat sheet filled up nicely.
Johnson assisted on Sidney Crosby’s empty-net goal, blocked four shots and was a plus-2. Schultz assisted on Jared McCann’s second goal of the game in the third period and had two blocks and two shots on goal.
“I think we did a pretty good job of keeping them to the outside at least, not letting them get into those high-danger scoring areas,” Johnson said. “When they did, we got great stops from our goaltender.”
The game was Johnson’s first in Columbus after spending the previous six-plus seasons as a member of the Blue Jackets defense corps.
He said before the game that the reunion held no emotional significance for him.
The two points he and the Penguins carried home sure did.
“I knew this team before I even got here has a ton of character,” Johnson said. “You don’t win as many times as they have without it. It’s great to see it, but I’m not surprised by the guys in the room.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .