Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets - 4/19/14
Columbus Blue Jackets (43-32-7) at Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-7)
NHL Hockey: Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm (Consol Energy Centre)
The Line: Pittsburgh Penguins -201 / Columbus Blue Jackets +182 --- Over/Under: 5.5 See the Latest Odds
In a playoff series where one team is a heavy favorite it usually means that the underdog needs to find a way to steal at least one game if they expect to move on. Wednesday night in Game 1 might have been that game for the Columbus Blue Jackets but they couldn't hold onto a lead and make it stand up. Jack Johnson opened the scoring a little over six minutes into the first period to give the Blue Jackets the lead that would hold up until there were under three minutes to play in the period. Pittsburgh would answer back on Jussi Jokinen's goal but then Columbus scored the first of two goals on the night that made it seem like it they were going to be able to steal this one. Mark Letestu's power play goal came just 45 seconds after Jokinen tied the game for Pittsburgh, the result of a Rob Scuderi interference call. With momentum right back on their side heading into the intermission the Blue Jackets came out strong in the second period despite being shorthanded. Derek MacKenzie scored on the penalty kill just 43 seconds into the frame to give Columbus a 3-1 lead and stun the home crowd at Consol Engery Center. These are the types of goals that a heavy underdog needs if they're going to steal a series, but Pittsburgh's talents wouldn't go down without a fight. On the same man advantage Beau Bennett scored on a tip in to cut the deficit to one, and Matt Niskanen's power play goal less than a minute later made it 3-3. With the talent descrepancy so glaring between the two clubs the Blue Jackets know that they can't be taking penalties. Pittsburgh's power play is so lethal and it's almost impossible for Columbus to compete if they're going to be giving the Penguins numerous power plays every game. The Penguins finished the night 2-for-3 with the man advantage but that proved to be the difference in the game. Brandon Sutter's goal midway through the third period gave the Penguins a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish. For the Penguins the bigger concern is that Marc-Andre Fleury did nothing in this game to instill confidence that he's over his post season woes with this performance. If it weren't for the Blue Jackets taking bad penalties they would have stolen this game on the road and the media in the Steel City would be clamoring for a goaltending change. Columbus showed everyone exactly what they're all about in this game, but it was also clear that they just don't match up well with the Penguins. If the Blue Jackets are going to win this series they're going to need to play like that every game in this series and even then it still might not be enough because of their lack of goal scoring. Sergei Bobrvosky did everything he could but it wasn't enough and now Game 2 really becomes one of desperation for Columbus.
The Blue Jackets let us down in Game 1 as a big time underdog but they showed exactly why they were a nice play in that game. The Penguins are going to be heavy favorites throughout in this series and for a club that has had some serious playoff issues and won't match the Blue Jackets intensity on most nights that continues to make them a risky play. Pittsburgh should ultimately take this series in the end because their talent will overcome their flaws, but what we saw on Wednesday is exactly what we're going to get from the Blue Jackets in this series. Columbus is tenacious and relentless and they will make the Penguins work for every win in this series. This isa tough game to call because it looks like the Blue Jackets missed their opportunity to steal one on the road in this series. Pittsburgh should be the play but at this price there's only one way to go with it.
USA TODAY Sports