Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was a pivotal piece of the win at Consol Energy Center. He rebounded after allowing two first-period goals to make 31 saves in his 46th playoff victory.
"It's fun. It's stressful. It's a great feeling to get the win, though, in the end," Fleury said. "I did [have nerves]. I think most guys do when the playoffs start. I just went in and it was a rough start, a little bit. They got two goals in the first, but I was able to stay calm and stay with it, and the more the shots came, the more comfortable I felt."
Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 28 saves in his eighth Stanley Cup Playoff appearance, has yet to win a postseason game. Columbus has not won in five playoff games in its history.
It was Pittsburgh's sixth win in as many games against Columbus this season. The Penguins went 5-0-0 in the regular season.
After Penguins defenseman Paul Martin forced a turnover in the neutral zone, forward Beau Bennett slid a pass to Brandon Sutter, creating a 2-on-1. Sutter elected to keep the puck and wristed a shot past sliding defenseman Fedor Tyutin and Bobrovsky at 8:18 of the third period to give Pittsburgh its only lead of the game.
Pittsburgh rearranged its lines throughout. One change was moving Bennett from the first line to the third, alongside Sutter.
"I thought, as a line, we were pretty good tonight," Sutter said. "I thought we created some good chances, and obviously when you get a break like that, you prefer to at least get a shot off. It's the game we expected. They played hard, they're a balanced team and have a great goaltender.
"It's going to be a tough series."
Game 2 of the best-of-7 is here Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).
Columbus seemed to take control of Game 1 with a shorthanded goal 43 seconds into the second period. With Blake Comeau in the penalty box, Derek MacKenzie forced Kris Letang to turn over the puck and wristed a shot past Fleury on a breakaway to put the Blue Jackets up 3-1.
But the Penguins got back within one goal on the same power play. Bennett deflected a Matt Niskanen slap shot past Bobrovsky at 1:34 for his second playoff goal.
Pittsburgh didn't take long to tie the game. Forward Evgeni Malkin, who returned to the Penguins' lineup after missing the final 11 games of the regular season with a foot injury, picked up his second assist of the game by feeding Niskanen, who snapped a shot through Bobrovsky's five-hole at 2:19.
"There were a lot of responses from our team," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They got the first goal, they got up by two goals, they got a shorthanded goal. Our team had to respond in this game, and our power play had to respond and it did. I think that was the thing I like most from our team tonight."
Fleury made several acrobatic saves throughout the remainder of the second period to keep the game 3-3, including a poke check on a Matt Calvert breakaway in the final minute.
The Blue Jackets had never held a postseason lead entering Wednesday. Jack Johnson changed that by scoring the first goal.
Brandon Dubinsky carried the puck through the neutral zone and juked around Martin before spinning off of Sidney Crosby and one-handing a pass to Johnson at the inner edge of the left faceoff circle. Johnson deked to the left before bringing the puck back to the right and pushing it around Fleury's left pad 6:20 into the game.
"I don't think anybody tested the waters. I thought our guys jumped right in," Dubinsky said. "It's a good team over there, but it's a long series and it's just one game. We'll get better. We'll use [the two days between games] to improve. We'll use it to get ourselves prepared.
"We'll be ready."
Columbus' lead lasted almost 11 minutes before Jussi Jokinen tied the game.
Malkin threaded a pass through three Blue Jackets to Jokinen driving toward the net. Jokinen wristed a shot past Bobrovsky's glove with 2:47 left in the period.
The Blue Jackets answered with a power-play goal 45 seconds later.
After Johnson whacked the puck off Fleury's pads, it bounced to Mark Letestu to the right of the net. The former Penguin took a shot that deflected off Fleury's glove as he stretched for a save attempt and into the net for his first playoff goal with 2:02 remaining.
"I liked the way that we started," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "That was one of my concerns going into the game with a lot of young players, it being their first time. I think the hype of the game too, I think coming in, energy-wise that affected us."
|Jack Johnson (1) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (1)|
1 - 0 CBJ
|Jussi Jokinen (1) ASST: Evgeni Malkin (1), Olli Maatta (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Mark Letestu (1) ASST: Jack Johnson (1), Boone Jenner (1)|
2 - 1 CBJ
|SHG - Derek MacKenzie (1) ASST: NONE|
3 - 1 CBJ
|PPG - Beau Bennett (1) ASST: Matt Niskanen (1), Paul Martin (1)|
3 - 2 CBJ
|PPG - Matt Niskanen (1) ASST: Evgeni Malkin (2), Sidney Crosby (1)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Brandon Sutter (1) ASST: Beau Bennett (1), Paul Martin (2)|
4 - 3 PIT
|Power Play %||21.7%||19.3%|
|% on Road||21.5%||16.4%|
|% at Home||22.0%||22.0%|
|Rob Scuderi Interference against Matt Calvert|
|Blake Comeau Cross checking against Brian Gibbons|
|Jack Johnson Interference against Brian Gibbons|
|Tanner Glass Interference against Blake Comeau|
|Kris Letang Slashing against Boone Jenner|
|Fedor Tyutin Tripping against Marc-Andre Fleury|
|Kris Letang Interference against James Wisniewski|