COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's no secret. The Columbus Blue Jackets' Brandon Dubinsky straddles a fine-line with his ultra-aggressive style against Sidney Crosby.
Dubinsky ratcheted up an already intense game when he cross-checked the Penguins star in the back of the neck late in the second period, then helped clinch victory with a dazzling setup on Cam Atkinson's overtime goal in the Blue Jackets' 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Friday night.
Crosby was slow getting to his skates and went to the locker room with 1:20 left, but returned for the third period and played the rest of the game. Dubinsky was assessed a minor penalty, and the NHL's department of player safety will hold a hearing about the incident on Saturday.
Crosby was on the ice when Atkinson scored with 2:18 left after Dubinsky cut through the slot, curled into the right faceoff circle and slid a pass back into the slot for Atkinson.
"We all know he lives for these games," Atkinson said of Dubinsky. "I'm sure they all know that on the other side as well."
"I don't try to do anything dirty," Dubinsky said. "I felt my stick rode up his back a little bit. He's kind of bent over there in front. But again that's not really the type of player I am. I'm going to play hard but try and play fair and in between the whistle."
Penguins coach Mike Johnston wasn't thrilled when he got a second look at the play.
"When you look at it again, it looked bad to me when I saw it in-between periods," he said.
"I'm OK," he said. "There is always concern when that happens. Yeah, I'm good. Honestly, I didn't even see it so I don't know how it looked I just know how it felt."
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 41 shots for the Penguins, and Sergei Bobrovsky turned away 24 for Columbus, which has won five of the last six games in this growing rivalry.
The game was filled with odd-man rushes, superb goaltending, booming hits and other nastiness. It was reminiscent of the closely contested first round series Pittsburgh won over Columbus two seasons ago.
Evgeni Malkin put Pittsburgh ahead on a power play with 10:45 left, and Crosby assisted to extend his points streak to a season-long four games.
Ryan Johansen tied it 2:42 later, beating Fleury on a near-post shot at a tough angle for his fifth. The goal withstood Johnston's requested video review for a possible goalie interference penalty.
"I like the way we handled ourselves when they scored," Blue Jackets coach Tortorella said. "We had a power play and it wasn't good. We didn't get flustered and we kept on playing and stayed with it."
Columbus was the last team this season to play in the NHL's new 3-on-3 overtime format. The Penguins dropped to 5-1 in overtimes and shootouts.
In the first period, Columbus' blanketing forecheck presented problems for the Penguins. Pittsburgh came the closest to scoring when David Perron's shot barely missed, kicking off Bobrovsky and the left post 28 seconds into the game.
The intensity increased in the second period. Patric Hornqvist sent a thundering shoulder check into Matt Calvert in the corner, and then pushed his stick into Calvert on the ice. With just over a minute remaining in the period, Dubinsky took out Crosby. Malkin — who already had two slashing penalties in the game — set off a melee when he jabbed at Bobrovsky and eventually fought Jack Johnson.
"These are the game you always want to be a part of and that you look forward to on the calendar," Johnston said. "I'd say they are probably one of our biggest rivals now, if not our biggest. It's always a blood-bath out there with these guys."
NOTES: Pittsburgh has scored a power-play goal in five straight games. ... Columbus tied the franchise record with its eighth win in November. ... The Blue Jackets played a franchise-record 23-straight regulation games to start this season. It was the longest such streak since the 1998-99 Islanders began with 27 straight regulation games. ... The Blue Jackets play in St. Louis on Saturday night. The Penguins host Edmonton on Saturday night.