Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-7) at Columbus Blue Jackets (43-32-7)
|Date & Time||Monday April 21, 2014, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Columbus Blue Jackets / Pittsburgh Penguins --- Over/Under:
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The Pittsburgh Penguins had an opportunity on Saturday night to seize control of their first round playoff series with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but in the end they failed to do so. Wednesday night the Penguins were a little more fortunate in a game they probably didn't deserve to win, but the hockey gods took it right back from them in Game 2. Brian Gibbons scored 56 seconds apart in the opening period, including a short handed goal, to give Pittsburgh an early 2-0 lead. Ryan Johansen would answer right back on the power play for Columbus to cut the lead in half, but before the end of the period it was Matt Niskanen's tally with the man advantage that gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead after one period. Niskanen's goal would end up being a focal point in this game because it would be the only time the Penguins would convert on eight power play opportunities. Pittsburgh could not solve an aggressive Blue Jackets penalty kill all night long. Columbus wouldn't allow any time at all for Pittsburgh to set up and any time there was the slightly mishandle of the puck there was a Blue Jackets penalty killer on the puck. The penalty kill that Columbus put on in this one showed exactly why this club got here in the first place. There is a work ethic and a commitment that clubs need to exhibit if they're going to be good on the penalty kill. A lot of teams and a lot of players don't want to make the sacrifice that's needed to excel, but this Blue Jackets club does exactly that. It resulted in the turning point of the game when Columbus turned Pittsburgh over in their own end while shorthanded. Matt Calvert took the puck and led a three on two to the other way, finishing the play off by beating Marc-Andre Fleury top shelf to cut the deficit to 3-2. The score would remain that way until the second half of the third period when Calvert drew an interference call against Pittsburgh's Kris Letang. Jack Johnson then finished off a pass from Johansen to tie the game at 3-3 and send it into overtime. In the first overtime session the two clubs went back and forth with Sergei Bobrovsky making some huge saves to keep the Blue Jackets alive. The first overtime session went by with no winner, but just 1:10 into the second session it was Calvert appearing again. Brandon Dubinsky made a strong play with the puck behind the net and centered it out in front where Cam Atkinson put it on net. The rebound bounced to Fleury's right and while Calvert wasn't successful on his first attempt, he elevated the puck on his second, lifting the Blue Jackets to a 4-3 double overtime victory, a 1-1 tie in this Metropolitan Division Semifinal, and the first playoff victory in Blue Jackets history. It was a well deserved win for this hard working club and one that completely changed the complexion of this series. Pittsburgh is going to be kicking themselves for allowing this one to get away after holding a two goal lead after one period on home ice. Sidney Crosby recorded two assists in this one but he hasn't been the dynamic force you'd expect to see from the best player in the world. Dubinsky and the rest of the Blue Jackets have done a good job of frustrating him and not allowing him a ton of time and space.
Monday night is going to be an absolute mad house at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. This is a fan base that hasn't had much reason to cheer since this hockey club first came into existence, but they've really embraced this team and their work ethic. When you've got a hard working club like the Blue Jackets it's even more difficult to play them when they're feeding off the energy in their home building. The Penguins always find a way to make things interesting in the post season and it doesn't look like this year is going to be any difference. The Penguins need to convert on the power play if they're going to be gifted eight opportunities with the man advantage. That power play is where Pittsburgh takes advantage of all the talent and skill they have on this roster. If the Penguins aren't going to score on the power play the Blue Jackets have the edge in this series because they just outwork their opponents. If Columbus can find a way to build off the energy in the building early on and take a lead, they've got a great chance at taking Game 3 and taking control of this series in the process.