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Post Game: Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 3 (Game 1)

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets



With the Blue Jackets leading 3-1 and owning the bulk of momentum, the Pittsburgh Penguins used a couple of quick-strike goals early in the second period to turn Game 1 around.

Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen both tallied on the power play to turn a two-goal deficit into a tie game in less than 90 seconds, a short span that seemed to jolt the Blue Jackets and give the Penguins some life. Brandon Sutter gave the Penguins their first and only lead of the game with 11:42 remaining in regulation, and that was all Pittsburgh needed in its 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against Columbus.

The game started favorably for the visitors, too, scoring the opening goal in the first period and answering a Pittsburgh goal later in the first with a power play goal by former Penguin Mark Letestu. Jack Johnson got it started early in the first period, finishing his own rebound off a slick feed by Brandon Dubinsky at 6:20 - a goal that gave Columbus its first-ever lead in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Penguins took that lead away briefly when Jussi Jokinen made it 1-1 with 2:47 left in the first, but the Blue Jackets needed only 13 seconds of their first power play to go back on top. Letestu capitalized on a turnover by Brooks Orpik, and found himself with an open cage and his first goal of the playoffs at 17:58.

After Derek MacKenzie made it 3-1 just 43 seconds into the third period with a beautiful shorthanded goal, the Penguins revved it up and the Blue Jackets paid for some turnovers in the neutral zone. 

"I like the way our guys fought, I like the way our guys played," Dubinsky said. "You know, we can't give them those power plays like that, whether it's a bounce or what, but in the end, we got a power play goal, a short-handed goal, so you wash that out and they made one more play than us. That's just the way the playoffs go sometimes. We just got to make sure that we clean up our turnovers and take care of the puck.

"We can't give them odd-man rushes and we gave them a couple too many odd-man rushes tonight and they finally made us pay. Like I said, I like the way we battled and I think our guys know what to expect and we'll be ready come Saturday."

The two goals in the second period set the table for Pittsburgh, but the tipping point was a power play opportunity in the third period that the Blue Jackets let get away. They had 1:18 on an abbreviated power play, but the Penguins played a game of keep-away and Columbus struggled to break the puck out of their own end. That was a pivotal juncture with the Jackets trailing 4-3 in the third period and seeking the equalizer.

The game-winning goal in the third period - the Penguins' first lead of the night - earned Sutter top star honors.

Niskanen had a hand in two of the biggest goals in the game, the primary assist (a shot-pass) on Bennett's goal and tying the game with a power play marker of his own.

Johnson was a horse defensively for the Blue Jackets but also had a solid night offensively, contributing the opening goal and picking up an assist, as well. 


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