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Bouncing back a familiar refrain for Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The day after what could have been a devastating defeat instead saw the Columbus Blue Jackets looking forward to Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday at Nationwide Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

Columbus held a 3-1 lead in the third period of Game 3 before the Penguins scored three goals 2:13 apart Monday to grab a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

"Those are games you can't let slip away," Columbus forward RJ Umberger said. "We've got to regroup and come back for Game 4 with the same start and find the way to win.

"We're a confident group in here. We feel we've been close with them all year and feel this is a series that's going to go the distance. It's going to be a hard-fought battle here. There's still a lot of hockey left."

Their resolve comes from a season of ups and downs. The Blue Jackets started 5-10-0 but finished with a 43-32-7 record with franchise bests for wins and points (93).

Down the stretch they gave up a two-goal lead at home to the Colorado Avalanche and lost 3-2 in overtime but rebounded to win 2-0 at the Philadelphia Flyers the next game. That was followed by a 4-3 loss at Nationwide Arena when the Chicago Blackhawks scored the winner with four seconds left.

Two days later, the Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 4-0 to start a three-game winning streak to clinch their second postseason appearance in franchise history.

Blue Jackets forward Jared Boll said bouncing back has become the norm.

"We've been doing that all year," he said. "We've come back from tough losses and games we should have won but lost. We've come back with a good effort. We'll be looking for the same [Wednesday] night. We learned from our mistakes and we'll come out stronger."

One area where the Blue Jackets need to improve is cutting down on penalties. After taking a 2-0 lead in the opening four minutes Monday, they gave the Penguins three power plays before the first period was over.

Although the Penguins didn't score, the Blue Jackets felt like the game started to turn.

"We're a four-line team, then to take three consecutive minors takes a lot of our players out of the game," Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu said. "The guys who don't kill penalties, maybe it gets their legs out of the game.

"We've got to play smarter."

Columbus coach Todd Richards is eager to see how his players respond.

"I think this group is going through the experiences down the stretch, playing in important games, when you do have a tough loss, after our Chicago game here at home, our guys were focused and ready for the next game," he said. "So I believe this team is going to be ready to start Game 4."

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