The Jackets proved they knew how to score goals, but couldn't ultimately prevent the response from the defending Stanley Cup Champions. They fell by a score of 5-4 in overtime.
The Penguins hold a 3-0 series lead going into Game Four Tuesday.
Getting the first goal was a priority for the Jackets going into tonight, and they did it. Playing without a suspended Matt Calvert, 11 seconds into the game, the team carried the puck into the zone, and Brandon Dubinsky took the first shot of the game. It rebounded off Marc-Andre Fleury and straight to Cam Atkinson who buried for the 1-0 Jackets lead.
Atkinson wasn't done. The Penguins evened the score 1-1 before Atkinson took the puck from Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh's zone and immediately fired off his backhand for his second of the night to regain the Jackets lead.
Less than a minute later, the Jackets got a power play opportunity, and Zach Werenski, with the first attempt during the man advantage, fired a shot from just above the left circle that lasered into the top right corner. It took a second for the officials to call the goal because the puck nestled on top of the in-net camera, but upon review, the Jackets extended their lead 3-1.
In the second, the Penguins surged. They scored two unanswered goals to tie the game 3-3. The second came eight seconds after Werenski took a Phil Kessel shot to the face that dropped him to the ice while play continued up to the score. Werenski left the game through the balance of the middle period.
Video: Cam on his two goals and momentum swings in the game
"I'm not sure if we had any possession or not, but it's (the officials') call," John Tortorella said. "I've seen it called both ways. I don't think we got puck possession but I've seen it on plays like that, the refs blow it dead. They decided not to."
The third period was played at breakneck speed. Werenski returned to the game with a full cage attached to his mask, and with just over eight minutes left to play, the Penguins earned a power play goal. But the Jackets wouldn't stop. 2:23 later, Jack Johnson fired a shot that Fleury couldn't control. The kick save went directly to Brandon Dubinsky who notched the tying goal.
The score forced overtime, and the two teams matched each other shot for shot, but Pittsburgh held the advantage in possession overall. Jake Guentzel notched his third goal of the night to win the game for the Penguins.
"It's hurts, no doubt about it," Brandon Dubinsky said. "We needed this one. Unfortunately, we didn't get it done, now we're in the situation where it's do or die. We can pout and hang our heads, or we can come to work tomorrow and get ready for another game."
Video: Dubi on the mentality headed into Game 4
Here's what we learned.
Zach Werenski makes another statement.
John Tortorella has talked about how there's nothing the defenseman does to belie that he is just 19 years old. Game after game in this playoff series Werenski has continues to make that case. Tonight, the rookie earned his first post-season point on his first post-season goal, an ever-important power play score.
Then, after taking a puck to the face in the second period, Werenski returned to play almost seven minutes in the third. He played with a face that was swelling and half-bruised, marked by a cut below the eye and still registered two more shot attempts before the swelling reduced his vision so much he couldn't play in overtime.
"I'm just proud of the leadership he showed coming back and trying to play and make a difference. It speaks to the maturity of the kid. He's a warrior. I'm proud of him."
Video: JJ on filling Werenski's minutes tonight
Gaining a lead is just as important as protecting a lead.
The Jackets built up a two-goal lead in the first period, but gave it away in the second and had to fight from behind to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the regular season, the Jackets were 28-8-1 when leading after the first period, and 33-1-3 when leading after two.
"When we get a lead we have to find a way to lock it down," Dubinsky said. "We got on our heels a little bit… We got back to it in the third, but against a team like that you can't put yourself in that situation. We have to find a way to play with a lead and lock it down, it's something we've been so good at all year long. That's why it's frustrating that we couldn't do it tonight."
Young Jackets continue to contribute.
The Jackets continued to add the record books tonight with cadre of young players who are playing in their first NHL Playoffs and being difference makers. Werenski became the youngest player in Jackets history to score in the playoffs, and Oliver Bjorkstrand earned his first post-season point with the secondary assist on Dubinsky's third period game-tying goal. Scott Harrington was second on the team in five-on-five shot attempts plus-minus (+3).