Apr 19, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) celebrates with the Blue Jackets bench after scoring a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game two of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Tops Pittsburgh 4-3 to Even Series at One


 

An absolute collapse.

Defeated by the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 in a Game 2 double overtime thriller, the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t outlast the ‘Jackets, as they captured their first-ever playoff victory in franchise history, and knotted the series up at one.

Pittsburgh started off rolling.

Off a pass from Sidney Crosby, defenseman Matt Niskanen fired a high-heater at the net, to which forward Brian Gibbons re-directed in the game’s opening tally, 3:30 into the tilt. But Gibbons’ didn’t stop there.

While Columbus was amidst a power-play opportunity, courtesy of a Joe Vitale goaltender interference penalty, Gibbons found himself on a shorthanded advantage and beat ‘Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky on a backhand-forehand shot to put Pittsburgh up 2-0, just 54-seconds after he potted his first.

However, still on their man-advantage, ‘Jackets forward Ryan Johansen slapped one from just past the top of the circle, and put it behind Marc-Andre Fleury to bring the game down to a one-goal deficit 43-seconds later. Although the tally was greatly needed, any momentum that was built off it evaporated later on in the final minutes of the period.

On yet another power-play, Niskanen notched his second goal of the series, and put Pittsburgh up 3-1 heading into the second period. Unfortunately for the Pens, Niskanen’s goal would be the last they would score in regulation.

Following a shorthanded goal from ‘Jackets forward Matt Calvert, Columbus was vying for the equalizer on a man-advantage gift with under 10-minutes left in the game. And they did just that. Off a mad scramble in front of the net, ‘Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson found the loose change and beat Fleury blocker-side to tie the game up at three.

After an overtime period of exchanged barbs, Pittsburgh had Columbus right where they wanted ‘em, as they went into double-OT with 33-seconds of power-play to work with. But it was not to be, as Columbus killed off Pittsburgh’s man-advantage, and Calvert, who registered the ‘Jackets second goal, cashed in his second of the game, and completed his team’s comeback.

As it was prevalent in Game 1, Pittsburgh still is displaying serious issues on their defense. Breakdowns left-and-right, accompanied with ill-advised turnovers, the Pens’ blueliners had no clue which way was up all night long. Which is disappointing, ’cause Fleury played a stellar game.

Stonewalling 41-of-45 shots, Fleury was the sole reason Pittsburgh was even in this contest, and it’s ironic, because of all the uncertainty surrounding him due to his recent postseason meltdowns. While Fleury’s efforts are what’s holding the Pens together, their defense needs to find themselves if they have any shot of escaping round-one.

The power-play for Pittsburgh was terrible. Utter laziness amongst the first unit hung over their heads all night, and it showed with their 1-for-8 performance. If the ‘Jackets are going to give you that many chances to pile up the goals, it’s not the time to get cute.

In their next outing, Pittsburgh must execute with more desperation. This first-round series is turning out to be reminiscent of last year’s first-round matchup with the New York Islanders – which is alarming.

Other notes to pass along – Crosby and Paul Martin garnered two assists each, and Brooks Orpik collected a helper. Gibbons left the game after skating just 2:25 of ice-time, and there wasn’t any update on his condition.

Game 3 is Monday, Apr. 23, in Columbus, and it can be seen on the NBC Sports Network. The game is set to start at 7 p.m.

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Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins