The opening of the Pittsburgh Penguins preseason kicked off with split-squad matches against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
While the Penguins big stars did not participate in either game, a handful of players showed flashes of what might be ahead of them in 2022-23.
Heading into the 1:00 p.m. game, the Penguins had a distinct advantage on paper by icing a much more talented and NHL ready lineup.
The Penguins first forward line was set with Jason Zucker, Teddy Blueger, and Kasperi Kapanen.
AHL regular on the blue line Jon Lizotte and prospect Corey Andonovski scored the Penguins goals during the first three periods, but it was Zucker’s overtime winner that stood out.
Zucker is looking to bounce back in a huge way in 2022-23 and he showed to have that hunger on his goal.
Picking up a loose puck and driving to the net, utilizing his strength to keep the Blue Jackets defender zoned out.
Despite being hooked to the ice, Zucker quickly flipped to the forehand and flipped over the Jackets goaltender Nolan Lalonde.
Zucker said after the game that he was not impressed with his own play.
"Felt terrible. It's the preseason that's the way it goes," Zucker said. "You got to work through it. It's why we play preseason games."
A lot of eyes are going to be on Zucker this season, and he got off on the right foot with a very early entry for goal of the year.
Just by looking at the lineups deployed by the teams, the Penguins had no right keeping game two close.
And that’s exactly what happened; the Blue Jackets trounced the Penguins 5-1.
Heading into the game, the only players of note to keep a close watch of would have been Radim Zohorna and PO Joseph who are both fighting for roster spots.
The Blue Jackets, however, trotted out possible All-Stars like Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski, and Elvis Merzlinkins in net.
Not much the Penguins could do as the Blue Jackets filled the net with goals from Laine, Jake Voracek, Gustav Nyquist, and twice from Justin Danforth.
Jordan Frasca was credited with the Penguins only goal in game two.
The NHL preseason is underway and soon enough NHL lineups will begin to be formed.
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