Blue Jackets beat Pens in double OT, even series
Columbus’ Matt Calvert (11) returns to the bench after his short-handed goal in the second period Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Calvert scored the game-winner in the second overtime. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.
Game 3 is Monday in Columbus.
Jack Johnson tied the game with 6:01 left in regulation for the Blue Jackets. Ryan Johansen also scored the first playoff goal of his career for Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky overcame a shaky start to finish with 39 saves.
Brian Gibbons scored twice and Matt Niskanen added his second goal of the playoffs but Pittsburgh was outplayed for much of the final three-plus periods. Fleury made 41 stops but was helpless on the game-winner.
The Penguins have dropped four straight home overtime playoff games and blew a chance to take a 2-0 series lead when they failed to bury the Blue Jackets early on.
Instead, Columbus weathered an opening storm and recovered to collect the team’s first playoff victory since the expansion team made its debut Oct. 7, 2000 – 4,493 days ago.
The Blue Jackets were the better team for long stretches and kept Pittsburgh’s high-powered special teams in check. The Penguins went just 1 for 8 on the power play.
Both teams traded quality chances in the first overtime period. Bobrovsky made an excellent blocker save on Sidney Crosby racing down the right wing. Fleury stuffed R.J. Umberger from point blank range earlier in the period.
There was no back-and-forth in the second extra session. Brandon Dubinsky started the winning play by jabbing the puck at Fleury and Pittsburgh’s defense offered little resistance until the puck was on Calvert’s stick for the winner.
The Penguins knew they couldn’t afford a repeat of the first 21 minutes of Game 1, when the Blue Jackets knocked them around while streaking to a two-goal lead. Though Pittsburgh rallied to escape, the Penguins knew they were fortunate against a team making just its second playoff appearance in franchise history.
This time, Pittsburgh’s start wasn’t the problem. It was everything else.
Gibbons scored the first two playoff goals of his career 54 seconds apart – including a nifty short-handed breakaway in which he undressed Bobrovsky – to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead before the game was 5 minutes old. The giddiness didn’t last long, for the Penguins or Gibbons.
Johansen scored before the power play expired and Gibbons, elevated to Pittsburgh’s top line midway through Game 1, did not return after colliding with Johansen midway through the first period. While a Niskanen shot from the point with 2:08 left in the first restored Pittsburgh’s two-goal edge, it only seemed to galvanize the Blue Jackets.
Pittsburgh appeared primed to push the lead to three when Columbus forward Blake Comeau gift-wrapped a power play for the Penguins by tackling defenseman Paul Martin right in front of the referee a good 50 feet behind the play.
Instead, it brought Columbus to life. Some lethargic Pittsburgh passing set up a 3-on-1 short-handed breakaway for the Blue Jackets, with Calvert beating Fleury to bring Columbus within one. The disjointed effort by the Penguins deflated the bench and the building. Only stellar play by Fleury over the final 10 minutes of the second period kept Pittsburgh in front.
The wave carried over into the third, with Columbus eventually drawing even on Johnson’s power-play goal with 6 minutes to go.
The Blue Jackets scratched forward Nick Foligno once again with a lower body injury but Foligno is optimistic he’ll be able to return for Game 3. Foligno skated on Friday and believed he was close but was not cleared by team doctors. ... Crosby’s two assists moved him into third on the team’s career postseason scoring list. He now has 108 postseason points, trailing Jaromir Jagr (147) and Mario Lemieux (172). ... Columbus D Fedor Tyutin missed the third period and overtime because of an undisclosed injury.