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Blue Jackets try to even series vs. Penguins

by Jon Lane


(Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series, 2-1)


Big story: Through three games of this Eastern Conference First Round series, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets have demonstrated that a two-goal lead is never safe. Each game has been won 4-3 by the team that trailed 3-1. In Game 3, the Penguins scored three goals in 2:13 of the third period to rally past the Blue Jackets and take a 2-1 series lead.

Columbus center Mark Letestu admitted that emotions were perhaps ramped up from playing the first Stanley Cup Playoff game at Nationwide Arena since 2009.

"Hopefully that's behind us going in to a second home game," Letestu said. "Now we know what to expect, and we can play a simpler, smarter game."

A Blue Jackets win assures a Game 6 back in Columbus, and the players have taken some satisfaction with standing toe-to-toe with the Metropolitan Division champions.

"We can play with these guys," Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski said. "We can outscore them and we can play with them. It's about closing games off realizing they're an opportunistic team that will capitalize on your mistakes. We have to be smarter."

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh has a reputation for scoring with style, but with the top guns struggling to find goals, the Penguins have received contributions from secondary players who have cashed in while establishing a presence in the crease. It's something coach Dan Bylsma wants to see more of in Game 4.

"I don't think we can expect it to be an easy goal, a flash goal or a 2-on-1, odd-man opportunity. It's going to be dirty and ugly," Bylsma said. "That's where we gotta go and that's where we have to get them from. That's regardless of if it's Brandon Sutter scoring at the net or [Sidney] Crosby at the net."

The Penguins know with a win they can take a commanding lead back to Pittsburgh for Game 5.

"Our best hockey is ahead of us. I think that's the big thing," forward Lee Stempniak said. "We just stuck with it and got goals that weren't that pretty. We were around the net a lot and really drove the net. That's something we can carry forward, I think, use that desperation and just come out right from the start [Wednesday]."

Blue Jackets: Columbus has held four of the Penguins' offensive stars -- Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang -- without a goal. Crosby and Malkin have a combined seven assists, but Neal and Letang are without a point.

It's a pattern the Blue Jackets want to continue.

"You hope it's sustained," Letestu said. "They're still creating offense. Whether they're the guys putting the puck in the net or not, they're still finding a way to get on the scoreboard, whether it be assists or making some good plays.

"We've talked about containing them. We know we're not going to stop them the whole series. They may get some goals, but hopefully on the night they do we get a few more."

Who's hot: Penguins forward Beau Bennett has a goal and three assists. Defenseman Paul Martin has six assists in the series. … Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky has four points in three games. Forward Boone Jenner scored his first playoff goal Monday and is on a five-game point streak (2-4-6) that dates to the regular season. Defenseman Jack Johnson has scored in each game after scoring five goals in 82 regular-season games.

Injury report: Penguins forwards Brian Gibbons (undisclosed) and Marcel Goc (foot) took part in an optional practice Tuesday, but Bylsma had no update on their status. "When [Gibbons] gets healthy, we'll try to find a spot for him in [the lineup]," Bylsma said of Gibbons. … Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin (upper body) missed an optional practice Tuesday and isn't likely to play. Forward Nathan Horton (abdominal surgery) is out.


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