Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Penguins 5-4 setback in Game 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
* The Pens thought Game 3 was their best game of the series, and they wanted to be even better tonight in Game 4. Unfortunately, they were not. Mike Sullivan said as a group, as a whole, they have to be better. They didn't play the right way and weren't hard to play against. They weren't committed like their team usually is. They know they can and will be better, but they weren't good enough tonight.
* I know the Pens' slow starts have been a storyline, and understandably so. They had another one tonight, but honestly, I expected that from the first elimination game of the series. The Blue Jackets were playing with their backs against the wall and brought their absolute best. And while the Pens knew that would happen, it's one thing to talk about it and another to experience it. Especially with Columbus on home ice and feeding off their crowd, who brought tons of energy to the arena.
* The Pens D had the biggest challenge in that regard. Columbus is always a difficult draw for them with their style of play, but that was taken to another level in this game. They knew the Blue Jackets were going to come at them with everything they had, and they had a hard time fighting through the forechecks and pressure being applied to them. As Ron Hainsey said after the game, they got beat in situations they don't normally get beaten in.
* While I thought the Pens continued to play their system of collapsing their coverage around Marc-Andre Fleury, they didn't do as good of a job of clearing those second and third attempts away from their netminder. And the Jackets made them pay.
* Down in their end, the Jackets took a page out of the Pens' book in terms of collapsing in front of their goalie and blocking shots. The Pens certainly had their chances, particularly early on from Sidney Crosby's line. But time after time, the Jackets would get a stick or a body on a shot and send it up into the netting and out of play. Overall, the Pens just didn't have a lot of offensive zone time.
* Talk about momentum swings. The Pens made a push late in the second with a goal from Ron Hainsey to get within one. Columbus opened the third with a goal early in the first to retake the two-goal lead. The Pens responded less than two minutes later to climb back within one. Then Columbus responded shortly after that to regain the two-goal lead. What a crazy back-and-forth few minutes that was. The Pens have to do a better job of holding onto that momentum, and Crosby told me in order to do that they just need to execute.
* The Pens did have their moments and glimpses of the game they needed to get to, and one o those was the depth scoring. They got big goals from Hainsey - the first playoff tally of his career - and Tom Kuhnhackl. When the Pens' stars are being smothered like they were and don't have the jump they usually do, they need other guys to step up, and they did.
* The hockey gods were smiling down on the Jackets tonight in terms of bounces, particularly off the end boards. The puck took a few crazy caroms off the back wall, one of which ended up in the back of the net. At times it felt like we were in Joe Louis Arena, not Nationwide.