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Columbus has Blue Jackets fever after Game 2 win

Sunday, 04.20.2014 / 6:31 PM

By Craig Merz - NHL.com Correspondent / Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

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Columbus has Blue Jackets fever after Game 2 win

COLUMBUS -- The cell phones in the Columbus Blue Jackets' dressing room at Center Energy Center started going crazy at 10:46 p.m. Saturday after Matt Calvert scored the winner in the second overtime for a historic 4-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Not only did Calvert's goal enable the Blue Jackets to even the Eastern Conference First Round series at a one game apiece, it was their first victory in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since entering the NHL as an expansion team for the 2000-01 season.

Obviously, the win meant a lot to the long-suffering fans, and the players could sense their joy from 185 miles to the east in Pittsburgh.

"It's huge," Columbus center Ryan Johansen said. "You just look at reading Twitter after the game, as simple as that, and seeing the excitement around the city."

Added Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski: "I got some text messages from friends last night saying the city was really buzzing after the win."

Stanley Cup fever is guaranteed a longer run in Columbus than the Blue Jackets' other postseason appearance in 2009 when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in a Western Conference Quarterfinal series that lasted eight days.

With the victory Saturday, the Blue Jackets are guaranteed at least an 11-day run and five games, beginning with Game 3 Monday at Nationwide Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

Therein is the trap for a young Blue Jackets team with minimal playoff exposure.

"We're happy we can get that one [win] out of the way because there was a lot of focus around it," Johansen said. "Everybody's kind of thinking it's a success now that we finally got a win.

"Our vision and our focus is far beyond that. We're going to take it one game at a time as we have been and just trying keep making our team better and better."

Wisniewski said it's good that the fans have that first win, but there is a bigger challenge at stake.

"Obviously it's huge to take 14 years to win a playoff game, but it doesn't really mean anything," he said. "Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup and you've got to win 16 games in the postseason. For them right now they can celebrate and they're going to be very excited come Monday, but for us it's over with."

The momentum started turning last season when Columbus went 19-5-5 down the stretch, but missed the Western Conference playoffs on a tiebreaker to the Minnesota Wild. The Blue Jackets moved to the East this season and earned the first wild-card berth.

"Lots of people are invested in this team, whether it's being a fan of Columbus, growing up in Columbus and this is your team, or whether you're tied in through a player or coach or somebody on the staff, management," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "That's what makes it great. That's what makes the playoffs special."

The city of Columbus is showing its hockey teeth. The R Bar near Nationwide Arena was packed with celebrating fans after the win, as were other establishments. The Blue Jackets were also the lead story on the 11 p.m. news Saturday, a spot locals are accustomed to seeing in the fall reserved for the Ohio State University football team.

On Saturday afternoon, a "Let's Go Jackets" banner was unfurled at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center, where the Buckeyes' men's hockey and men's and women's basketball teams play.

Following a Columbus Crew match that night, the Major League Soccer team showed the first overtime period on the Crew Stadium video board for those who hung around.

Richards and his players are anxious for the first home game since April 6 and anticipate the noise level will be on par or greater than the 2012-13 home finale, when the Blue Jackets had to beat the Nashville Predators to stay alive in the playoff race.

"I was here for the Nashville game last year and I'm expecting it to be louder than that," Columbus left wing Nick Foligno said. "It's going to be hard to top. They're such avid fans here. I hope they're enjoying what we're putting out on the ice. We definitely need them to be loud and proud for us."

Richards cautioned his players about making too much of the win Saturday, while also wanting them to build on the confidence of rallying from a 3-1 deficit.

"We've talked about wins and losses. We've talked about the highs and lows," he said. "You've got to enjoy the moment, but there also comes a moment when you've got to put it behind you and focus on Game 3 because if we're still trying to live off what happened [Saturday] night, we're not going to be ready for [Monday] and I guarantee the team that we're playing [Monday] is going to be ready to go."

Quote of the Day

I just think about how much it hurts. The feelings aren't going to go away, probably never. It's just something that sticks with you for a long time.

— San Jose forward Logan Couture to The Canadian Press on the Sharks' first-round loss to the Kings after taking a 3-0 series lead