Every NFL season, when the final team loses for the first time, members of the 1972 Dolphins get together and pop a celebratory bottle of champagne. No team since then has finished the NFL season undefeated. And while this year’s Dolphins are making the trek up to the snowy confines of Heinz Field for a Wild Card tilt this Sunday, it’s the Penguins who should be popping champagne today.
Columbus lost. Finally.
For the first time since November, the Columbus Blue Jackets lost a hockey game. The 5-0 drubbing by Washington halted a 16-game win streak by Columbus, which not only pushed them three points clear of the Penguins in the Metro division with a game in hand, but had them on the brink of history.
Columbus was one game from tying the 1992-93 Penguins for the longest win streak in NHL history, and now that’s gone.
Pop the cork, Mario, your record is safe. (Note: Guarantee Jagr was popping a cork somewhere in Florida last night without even knowing why.)
The run for Columbus was remarkable, if not history making. The Blue Jackets beat Tampa Bay on Black Friday before falling in a shootout at Florida — Jagr scored the only Panthers goal in regulation — to give Columbus a 11-5-4 record through 20 games. The Penguins were 12-5-3 through 20 games and moved to 13-6-3 by Nov. 26, for 29 points to the Jackets’ 26. The Penguins then won eight of their next nine games and not only failed to extend their Metro division lead, they lost points to Columbus.
By Dec. 20, the Blue Jackets had tied the Flyers for the longest win streak of the season with 10 straight, then hosted the Penguins on Dec. 22 and netting seven goals, six on Matt Murray, after falling down 1-0. The 7-1 drubbing put the Jackets into first place in the Metro. Despite Pittsburgh winning the next three games, they were unable to regain the division lead before 2016 came to a close.
While Pittsburgh stays dormant during their league-agreed bye week — the Pens haven’t played since New Year’s Eve, which is nonsense — Columbus won their first game of the new year, a 3-1 victory over Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers on January 3, to get to 58 points in just 37 games. Pittsburgh, still sitting around waiting to get back on the ice, are now tied with the Rangers at 55 points, though having played three fewer games. New York and Columbus play on Saturday, the day before the Pens finally get back on the ice against Tampa Bay, which means Pittsburgh could start their 2017 leg either five points back in the division, or in third place. Or both.
Columbus’ run was spectacular.
They won 16 straight games and only three went to overtime, with two victories secured in a shootout. The last time the Jackets lost in regulation was Nov 23., a span of 18 games. (If you’re wondering what the record is for consecutive games with a point, it’s 34, held by the 1979-80 Flyers, who broke that record on Jan. 6, of all days.)