PENGUINS 4 | BLUE JACKETS 3
If there's ever a book written about this series, it should be titled "the curse of the two-goal lead."
Whether it's something in the air or something about the comfortability of a cushion, both the Blue Jackets and Penguins have made a mess of them through three games of this series. Tonight, the Jackets couldn't hold their 3-1 third period lead, and suffered a 4-3 loss to the Penguins in front of a thundering crowd of 19,148 union blue supporters at Nationwide Arena.
Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson got the Jackets out to a dream start - scoring a pair of goals in the first three minutes - putting Pittsburgh way back on its heels and forcing Dan Bylsma into an early timeout to settle his team down. The Jackets had their chances in the ensuing minutes, but a slew of penalties allowed the Penguins to slowly build momentum and eventually take over the game.
Shots were 16-7 favoring the Penguins after one period, thanks in large part to the power plays, but Pittsburgh was not as dominant in the second period. The Blue Jackets found their forechecking game again, hounding the defense and forcing turnovers - but were unable to get a third goal past Marc-Andre Fleury (who got better as the game went on) and then, in the waning moments of the middle frame, the Penguins got a little bit of life.
Brooks Orpik toe-dragged around a sliding Jackets defender and fired a wrist shot through Sergei Bobrovsky's pads, getting Pittsburgh on the board with 1.8 seconds left in the second period. After struggling mightily to crack Bobrovsky through nearly 40 minutes of play, the Penguins finally had something to build on.
Despite an early goal in the third period from Cam Atkinson, the Penguins kept on going and used a span of three goals on three shots in 2:13 to go from 3-1 down to leading 4-3. It was major shock to the Jackets' system, and they never fully recovered from it.
"It happened fast," Brandon Dubinsky said post-game.
But despite the disappointment of letting the two-goal lead dissipate, the Blue Jackets have no choice but to put this in the rear-view mirror and get ready for Game 4 on Wednesday night. They have an opportunity to even the series once again, and in front of their home fans, it's best classified as a gigantic opportunity.
"You can't sit around and mope about it," Johnson said. "That's a pretty good hockey team over there, too. I'd play Game 4 tonight if we could...there were some bad bounces but you have to have a short memory (in the playoffs). We'll be ready to come back in Game 4."
As coach Todd Richards put it: "I've seen teams lose three games and then win a series. We've lost two. You have to be able to put things behind you whether it’s an emotional win or a tough loss."
Hindsight is always 20/20, right? But it's hard to think about the potential complexion of Game 3 if Orpik doesn't slide that puck through Bobrovsky late in the second period. The Penguins needed something to jump-start them, and Orpik's goal did just that.
1. MATT CALVERT (CBJ)
Two huge goals in the game for Calvert in his second career playoff game, and it doesn't get any better than that.
2. BRANDON DUBINSKY (CBJ)
Dubinsky turned in another strong performance tonight in a difficult assignment, logging nearly 19 minutes, picking up two assists and winning 63 percent of his draws - many of them coming against Sidney Crosby.
3. PAUL MARTIN (PIT)
Martin spoke earlier this week about the Penguins needing more from their defense and a better overall effort. He along with his five other defensemen were pretty good tonight.
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS - GAME 4
VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
WEDNESDAY, 7 PM