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Penguins rally past Blue Jackets, take series lead

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- A trend has emerged through three games of the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins: A two-goal lead is never safe.

The Penguins scored three goals in a 2:13 span of the third period to rally for a 4-3 win Monday at Nationwide Arena and a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs best-of-7 series.

Jussi Jokinen scored the winner at 8:06 of the third when he deflected defenseman Olli Maatta's shot from the left point past Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

"I was trying to get the puck through, get it on net," Maatta said. "That's how to score. I did that. It was a little bit lucky."

The puck went off Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski, who was stationed in front of Bobrovsky, before going into the net for Jokinen's second goal in the playoffs.

"We got caught playing a little bit of their game, run and gun," Columbus left wing Nick Foligno said. "Their transition is so quick. That's what caught us a couple of times and a lucky bounce on the fourth one. That's playoff hockey."

All of the games in the series have been decided by a 4-3 score, with the losing team holding a two-goal advantage at some point. The Penguins twice trailed by two in Game 3.

"It's been kind of up and down the last three games," said Pittsburgh center Brandon Sutter, who scored the first of the Penguins' three third-period goals. "Any team that gets the lead finds a way to give it up."

Game 4 is Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT) in Columbus.

Nationwide Arena was raucous at the opening faceoff and even more so after first-period goals by Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson put the Blue Jackets ahead 2-0.

The Penguins didn't get on the board until defenseman Brooks Orpik scored late in the second period.

"The start obviously wasn't what we wanted," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who had his fourth assist of the series but has yet to score. "We stayed with it. There was a lot of hockey left. I thought we outplayed them, at least the second and third periods."

Cam Atkinson answered 64 seconds into the third to restore the Blue Jackets' two-goal advantage at 3-1. Atkinson's first career playoff goal came about after a backhander by linemate Brandon Dubinsky, who had two assists Monday, went in off his hand.

The Penguins started their comeback about five minutes later, when Sutter scored his second goal of the playoffs at 5:53. Sutter redirected defenseman Paul Martin's point shot past Bobrovsky.

Martin and forward Beau Bennett each had two assists for Pittsburgh.

Lee Stempniak tied the game at 7:03, scoring his first of the playoffs with a wrist shot from the right circle that froze Bobrovsky.

Sutter, Stempniak and Jokinen scored on consecutive shots. When the Penguins grabbed the 4-3 lead on Jokinen's goal, Pittsburgh held a 13-1 advantage in shots in the period. The Penguins outshot the Blue Jackets 15-5 in the third and 41-20 for the game.

The Pittsburgh rally rewarded Fleury after he rebounded from a shaky start.

"Fleury was outstanding tonight," Sutter said. "I thought he was great. He made a lot of big saves to keep us in even though we only gave up 20-plus shots. It could have been 3-0 a couple of times."

Even though Columbus held the 2-0 lead after the first period, it was outshot 16-7 in the opening period in large part because Pittsburgh had all three power plays. The Penguins could not, however, solve Bobrovsky, who stopped all 16 shots in the first and made 37 saves in the game.

The Blue Jackets, in their first home playoff game since April 23, 2009, scored two quick goals at the start.

"[The fans] got us energized," Dubinsky said. "Hopefully, we can expect the same thing in a couple of nights because we're going to need it."

Jenner gave Columbus the 1-0 led with his first career playoff goal at 1:38. The rookie forward beat Fleury through the pads after the goalie stopped the initial chance by Jack Skille but left the puck in the slot.

Johnson made it 2-0 at 3:18 when he was in front to collect a shot by Dubinsky that Fleury could not corral. The defenseman has three goals in the series after scoring five in 82 games in the regular season.

"We knew they were going to come out hard," Sutter said. "They're a good team. They're playing hard. We had to try to match it. I thought we did a great job responding."

Orpik took the air out of the arena with 1.8 seconds left in the second period after prolonged pressure in the Columbus end. His second career playoff goal cut the Blue Jackets' lead to 2-1.

Relentless forechecking enabled Bennett to dig the puck from along the right wall and send a pass across the ice to Orpik. The defenseman waited for Columbus left wing Matt Calvert to drop down to block his shot, then skated between the circles before beating Bobrovsky.

Columbus is in the playoffs for the second time since joining the NHL as an expansion team in 2000-01. They were swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals five seasons ago and have lost all three home playoff games in their history.

"Game 4 can't come fast enough," Johnson said. "We're pretty anxious to play them again. They're nothing special. We're a pretty damn good hockey team too. We're not shying away from anything. We're in this series to win the Stanley Cup, and they're in our way to win it."

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