BLUE JACKETS 4 | PENGUINS 3 (OT)
There's an old adage among golfers that "there are no pictures on a scorecard."
And Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who has encouraged his players to stick with it despite the immense peaks and valleys in a playoff series, said as much after a thrilling and likely-unforgettable Game 4 victory over the Penguins. Nick Foligno's goal at 2:49 of overtime - his first of the series - brought Columbus all the way back from a 3-0 deficit in the first period to win the game and even the series at two games apiece.
The game did not start favorably for the Blue Jackets, and in fact, it was quite gloomy after about 12 minutes. A couple of early chances went by the wayside, and in a short span (again), the Penguins scored three goals to race out to a 3-0 lead and force Richards into a timeout. From that point on, though, the Blue Jackets were dominant and forced the Penguins to play at at pace they weren't comfortable with...and they kept chipping away to find a way back in the game.
Ryan Johansen drew them closer with a power play goal at 14:20 of the second period, taking advantage of back-to-back penalties by the Penguins that resulted in a full two-minute 5-on-3. Artem Anisimov tipped a centering pass through to the back door, where Johansen was in perfect position to slam-dunk the puck into the empty net.
In the third period, the Penguins did everything they could to shut the game down and head back to Pittsburgh with a 3-1 series lead - and it looked dire for Columbus into the final minute. The Blue Jackets were unable to get Sergei Bobrovsky to the bench until there were less than 50 seconds left in regulation, but a quick play off the draw allowed Columbus to get in on the forecheck and make some magic happen.
Jack Johnson dumped it, Johansen was first to the puck after a misplay by Marc-Andre Fleury, and Brandon Dubinsky was alone in the high slot to bury the tying goal into an open net with 22.5 seconds to play. It was pandemonium inside Nationwide Arena.
“We just dumped it in and went to work — it was a 'Columbus' goal," Dubinsky said. "We went in and forechecked them hard, and (Johansen) throws it out in front to me…a couple of guys dove, it was a seeing-eye shot, and it went through two guys and went in the net. Obviously we were excited, but I’m proud of the way the guys settled down after we scored to tie it, because it’s not the regular season, there’s no one point in this situation.
"We had to reset and get ourselves prepared for overtime, and I’m happy with the way that we did that. We kept the pressure on and kept firing.”
And off they went to overtime - but not before something rather unique happened in the Jackets' dressing room during the intermission. Nick Foligno, who just returned from a lower body injury in Game 3, asked his teammates if they minded him scoring the overtime winner.
No one objected then, nor did they when he beat Fleury glove-side at 2:11 of overtime to win Game 4.
“I didn’t actually think it would work, but it ended up working," Foligno said. I can thank my lucky stars tonight that it ended up working, but I’m just happy to get that win for the guys.
“Just to find that answer...I think that says a lot about the character in this room. I gotta say a lot about the fans tonight, they were standing when we were down 3-0, they stuck with it, cheered us on, and I think it gave us a little momentum in the game.”
The game changed with the Jackets' response late in the first period. The timeout, the Jenner goal, and a restored sense of belief that they were still fully a part of this game. Richards encouraged them to just get one goal at a time, keep that their focus, and continue on their path. They built their comeback piece by piece, and capped it off with a memorable finish in overtime.
1. NICK FOLIGNO (CBJ)
The overtime winner might be the biggest he's scored in his career, but more impressively was him calling his shot.
2. BRANDON DUBINSKY (CBJ)
Can't say enough about Dubinsky's leadership and consistency in this series; he set up the 3-2 goal and scored the tying goal by being in the right place at the right time. On top of that, he played 20:47 with five shots on goal and held Sidney Crosby without a point (-2) on the night.
3. RYAN JOHANSEN (CBJ)
Another multi-point game for Johansen in this series and his second-period goal was a big one, making the Penguins pay for a pair of ill-timed penalties at a crucial juncture.
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS - GAME 5
AT PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
SATURDAY, 7 PM