The Penguins lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets in double overtime, 4-3, on Saturday night at CONSOL Energy Center in Game 2 of their first-round matchup. The series is now even at 1-1.
After an absolutely dominating first period where the Penguins took a 3-1 lead over the Blue Jackets and seemed assured of an eventual victory, the momentum completely shifted the other way when Columbus netted a shorthanded goal in the second period. From there, the Blue Jackets completely dominated the game and were rewarded with the double-overtime win.
“I think it’s a missed opportunity,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We’re at home, Game 2, we’re having a great first period, we have a two-goal lead. We’re in complete control of the hockey game and whether it’s a mistake or them capitalizing on an opportunity, the momentum changes and it took us a while to get back to playing.”
Brian Gibbons scored twice and Niskanen had a goal and an assist.Commentary and analysis on the game can be found here, while the main storylines are below…
Special teams can be a factor in any game, especially in the playoffs.
For the Blue Jackets, it proved to be the difference maker and the only reason they leave Pittsburgh with the series even at 1-1.
Columbus scored two on the power-play goals and one shorthanded to force Game 2 into overtime.
“It ends up being three special teams goals for them tonight and it was certainly the difference in this game,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins had all the momentum following Brian Gibbons’ shorthanded goal at 4:24 of the first period to take a 2-0 lead. But the Blue Jackets responded on that same power play just 43 seconds later to make it 2-1.
“They answered back with that goal there,” Bylsma said. “I thought that was a big response from their power play.”
The game changed completely when Matt Calvert scored a shorthanded goal to cut into the Penguins lead, 3-2 (more on that goal and how it altered the game here). The Blue Jackets had three power-play opportunities in the third period and connected on their last to tie the game at 3-3 with 6:01 left in regulation.
On the flip side, the Penguins, who had the NHL’s No. 1 ranked power play, went just 1-for-8 with the man-advantage, including a 0-for-3 mark in the second period.
“I think just execution,” Sidney Crosby said of the power-play failure. “We’re not creating enough consistently. Either we’re not entering well or forcing things when we do get set up. That’s an area we definitely have to improve in. Special teams are huge in the playoffs and we were on the wrong side of it here tonight.”
The other story of this game was the play of Marc-Andre Fleury. After his team’s dominating first period where he saw just four shots against, Fleury’s play is what kept the Penguins in this game – especially during the second period. His teammates weren’t able to take advantage of their chances to get it done at the other end of the ice, but Fleury certainly did his part at his end.
Columbus kept play pinned in Pittsburgh’s zone for long stretches after the first period of play, and not only were they creating chances – they were gorgeous and in close. The Jackets were absolutely sieging Fleury’s crease, and he had to come up with several terrific stops from point-blank range. The athletic netminder was able to recover to stop a lot of second and third chances from in close as well.
While play was more even after the second period, Fleury still had to come up with game-changing save after game-changing save as the contest progressed into double-overtime – finishing with 41 stops.
“He held us in there,” Crosby said. “It’s tough. You don’t want to leave him hanging to dry there, but we made some mistakes and they hurt us.”
GIBBONS’ HOT START
The normally serious Brian Gibbons had reason to finally crack a smile on Saturday, as he had a pair of goals less than five minutes into the game.
Head coach Dan Bylsma slotted the winger onto the right wing of the first line with Chris Kunitz and Crosby to start this game, and Gibbons made the most of that opportunity by using his body to deflect a Niskanen shot past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky on just his second shift.
The other day, Bylsma called Gibbons the fastest guy on the team in terms of flat-out, straightaway speed. We got a perfect example of that on Gibbons’ second goal, netted just 54 seconds later on a shorthanded breakaway. Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski bobbled the puck on the blue line, and Gibbons pounced – picking it up and blowing right past him to go in alone on Bobrovsky. Gibbons finished it off with a pretty deke, hitting the brakes and going backhand-forehand before tucking it through Bobrovsky’s pads.
However, the Pens lost Gibbons with just 9:40 left in the period (after just 2:26 of ice time) after it appeared he suffered an injury throwing a hit on Jackets forward Ryan Johansen behind Columbus’ net. Gibbons went down the runway to the locker room right after and did not return. With him out, Lee Stempniak saw the most time on the right wing of that line.
Bylsma did not have an update on Gibbons following the game.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo