PITTSBURGH 4 – COLUMBUS 3
The Penguins rallied from a 3-1 deficit and got a big third period goal from Brandon Sutter to take a 1-0 series lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the Best of Seven series.
Sutter broke a 3-3 tie at 8:18 of the third period, coming down the right side on a 2-on-1 off a Blue Jackets turnover in the neutral zone and Sutter’s shot handcuffed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the game winning goal. “I’ve seen Bob make that save a thousand times,” Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said afterwards. “It just got by him.”
Bobrovsky did not have a strong game, making 28 saves on 32 shots and if this is the Bobrovsky we see for much of the series, it won’t get past five games.
Beau Bennett, Matt Niskanen and Jussi Jokinen also scored in the win for Pittsburgh. Paul Martin and Evgeni Malkin added 2 assists. Marc Andre Fleury gave up three goals in the first 20:43 of action but held the Blue Jackets scoreless over the final 39 minutes of the game. He stopped 31 of 34 shots.
Did the Blue Jackets miss out on a golden opportunity?
For an inexperience team that few are giving a chance to win the series, the Blue Jackets played a strong game and this is surely a game to build on, especially with the possibility of Nick Foligno and R.J. Umberger back in the lineup for Game 2.
Columbus was extremely physical, out hitting the Penguins 48-27 but at the end of the day this is a game you have to find a way to close out when you’re a team like Columbus who has no room for error against a superior team in the Penguins. What did them was in opportune penalties early in the second period and subpar goaltending from Bobrovsky.
Off a Kris Letang turnover, Derek MacKenzie scored shorthanded 43 seconds into the second period to give the Blue Jackets a 3-1 lead but the Penguins would strike twice on the power play in 45 seconds on goals from Beau Bennett on a tipped Matt Niskanen shot at 1:34 of the second period and Niskanen would score moments later from a poor angle at 2:19 of the period, just 10 seconds into a Jack Johnson interference penalty.
The book on playing the Penguins is that you can’t take penalties and let them back in the game. There was a significant momentum swing less than two minutes after the MacKenzie shorthanded goal.
“Get those two goals on power play, got momentum back a bit and changed the game,” Brandon Sutter said.
“That was a big momentum swing,” Sidney Crosby said of the power play goals.
The Penguins got better as the game progressed in the second and third periods but there were still some things they need to clean up and that was the message from Crosby afterwards.
“Obviously we didn’t start the way we wanted, getting down two goals. I think we have to clean up some things,” Crosby said.
A positive for the Penguins was the contributions offensively from players not named Crosby or Malkin. Bennett, Sutter, Niskanen, and Jokinen scored in the win and the Penguins got a very strong game from Brian Gibbons in all situations from even strength play on the top line to his work on the penalty kill.
One area Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was pleased with was the Penguins ability to respond and when they held the lead in the third period.
“We didn’t have the lead a lot tonight but I liked the way we played with the lead. In this game tonight, there was a lot of responses from our team,” Bylsma said.
What Bylsma didn’t like?
“I thought the penalty to Kris Letang was an undisciplined one that didn’t cost us because we had a couple big kills there….but, one of the things that we didn’t do well in the game was our F3 in the offensive zone. It cost us a couple odd man rushes in first period in particular, and later in the game,” Bylsma said……
Another area Bylsma didn’t like was how the Penguins didn’t handle the Blue Jackets pressure well on forechecking the Penguins D.
Game 2 is Saturday night.
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