COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the dressing room after Brandon Dubinsky’s late goal forced overtime, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno half-jokingly said he’d get the winner.
Then he did it.
Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation and Foligno’s wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session — from right over the top of the Stanley Cup painted under the ice — gave the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Asked if he had called the goal, Foligno laughed.
“I might have,” he said with a wide grin. “I didn’t actually think it would work out, but it ended up working. I’m going to thank my lucky stars.”
The Blue Jackets overcame a 3-0 deficit for their first home playoff victory in the franchise’s 13 seasons, sending the series back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Saturday night tied 2-2.
The defeat left the Penguins, who had rolled over Columbus in all five meetings during the regular season, stunned.
“We lost the game, it’s 2-2 now and we have to have a response from our whole group,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
Craig Adams, Chris Kunitz and James Neal scored in a 5:01 span in the first period to stake the Penguins to a three-goal lead and briefly silence the rowdy crowd of 18,970.
But the Blue Jackets, unlike prior teams that had made the franchise a laughing stock by piling up defeats and failing in big games, kept coming. Rookie Boone Jenner scored on a 5-on-3 power play to cut it to 3-1.
That was an ominous sign for the Penguins.
In the three previous games of the series, a team had scored first on the way to a 3-1 lead — and then lost the game. This one was no different.
Ryan Johansen, who would star on Dubinsky’s tying shot, then tapped in a goal, also with a man advantage, to make it 3-2 through two periods. It stayed that way, both Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh and Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky trading big saves, until the final minute.
As brilliant as he had been at times, Fleury was the culprit. Without really having to, he elected to go to the back wall to handle Jack Johnson’s pass around the boards. He whiffed trying to handle the puck, it hopping over his stick, and he was left out of position. Johansen was there to saucer a quick backhanded pass through the crease where Dubinsky netted it with 22.5 seconds left.
“We just dumped it in and went to work,” said Dubinsky, acquired in the blockbuster deal that shipped captain and franchise hallmark Rick Nash to the New York Rangers two years ago. “It was a Columbus goal. We forechecked them hard, Joe threw it out front to me. I don’t know what happened with Fleury, but a couple of guys went down and I shot through them and it went into the net.”
That touched off a wild celebration, with dancing in the aisles and the loudest sound heard in the Blue Jackets’ mostly dismal 13 seasons — well, for at least a few minutes. Meanwhile Dubinsky slid on one knee on the ice before being mobbed by his teammates.
In the overtime, the Blue Jackets had the best of it — as they had for all but the start.
Foligno carried the puck through the neutral zone and was 12 feet across the blue line when he fired a low wrister that he tucked under Fleury’s glove. As the players piled on top of Foligno, the crowd went crazy again.
“The fans were outstanding,” Foligno said. “When we were down 3-0, they stuck with us and they kept cheering us on. And it really gave us a lot of momentum throughout the game.”
Fleury finished with 42 saves but had no explanation for what happened on the tying goal.
“They dumped it in and I thought I would stop it for my (defense),” he said. “I don’t know, it just bounced over my stick and went right to their guy (Johansen). And he put it right in front.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby defended his goalie.
“I didn’t get a good look but, you know what, I trust Marc,” he said. “For a puck to come out like that, I’m sure it had to take a bounce or some kind of a weird hop.”
Bylsma also blamed a funny bounce.
“It was just a puck that comes off of the stanchion and it’s a bouncing puck,” he said. “Obviously, it leaves them with an open cage and an opportunity.”
The closing goals buoyed the hopes of the Blue Jackets and called into question the Penguins, who have been playoff busts since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.
“I don’t know if you can script a better finish,” Richards said.
Notes: The NHL announced earlier Wednesday that Game 5 will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Pittsburgh. ... Bobrovsky had 22 saves for the Blue Jackets. ... Columbus was without rookie D Ryan Murray, who was wearing a boot after being hit with a puck in practice. Veteran Nick Schultz took his spot. ... Bylsma said he was hopeful C Marcel Goc (ankle) may be able to play in the series. ... Likely NHL MVP Crosby has not scored a goal in his last nine playoff games and Evgeni Malkin hasn’t found the net in his last eight.