Blue Jackets blow two-goal cushion in loss to Pens

Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates a goal against the Columbus Blue...

Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period of Game 3 of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena Monday night. (Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

COLUMBUS - The Pittsburgh Penguins’ motto for the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs is “Buckle Up Baby.”

In the third period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal on Monday, the Penguins went for a wild ride.

And it was one that the playoff-starved fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets wished they had missed.

Pittsburgh scored three unanswered goals, stunning the fourth-largest crowd in Jackets history, to win 4-3 at Nationwide Arena and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Jackets supporters watched in disbelief as a shot from the blue line by Penguins rookie defenceman Olli Maatta made its way toward the net and was deflected by Jussi Jokinen past goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for the winner at 8:06 of the third. That capped an offensive burst in less than three minutes, a rally that included goals by Lee Stempniak and Brandon Sutter.

Backed by a boisterous crowd of 19,148, the Jackets built an early 2-0 lead on goals by Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called a timeout and his team gradually took over, outshooting the Jackets 41-20 by the time the final buzzer sounded.

What role did the Penguins’ veteran savvy play, considering they have been in tough spots in the playoffs in previous years?

“It helps,” said defenceman Brooks Orpik, whose goal with 1.8 seconds remaining in the second period got the Penguins on the scoreboard.

“When you are younger, you don’t think experience really matters that much. I think young legs and young energy is good and definitely helps in certain situations, but the experience card trumps that.

“(The Jackets are) a really good defensive team, really well-coached with Todd (Richards). But any time you see especially a young team get a little bit nervous, it is pretty evident. They start throwing pucks away and start retreating, giving up the neutral zone.”

Cam Atkinson scored for Columbus early in the third period when a shot by Brandon Dubinsky went off his body and into the net behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but the Penguins didn’t flinch.

As much as Pittsburgh controlled the play, they were aided by six power plays, the first four in the game. The Penguins didn’t score as Bobrovsky was excellent, but they were able to carry momentum.

“I’m not going to comment on the officiating (by referees Steve Kozari and Dean Morton) or the calls or the non-calls,” Richards said. “It just does me no good, does our team no good.”

The Jackets were credited with 65 hits, a number that seemed high, no matter that the Penguins were in control.

“I think shots and goals are what really matter,” Orpik said. “(Physical play) wears you down, but if you have the puck, it is tough to hit people. And I thought we had the puck a lot. If they want to win that stat, that’s good for them.”

The citizens of Columbus had waited long enough for playoff hockey, as it was the first home game in the post-season since April 23, 2009. A pre-game party outside the arena attracted several thousand fans, while a local bar printed “Go Jackets! Crosby is a sissy!!!” on the bottom of its customers’ bills. Downtown, one office building’s lights have been left on at night to say GO JACKETS, a temporary sign that’s several floors high.

The din in the rink grew to a thunderous ovation when the Jackets hit the ice and the building became certifiable when the home team scored twice in a span of one minute, 40 seconds before the game was four minutes old.

Johnson has scored in all three games. In 82 games during the 2013-14 regular season, Johnson had five goals and a quick glance at his career stats showed he had not scored in three consecutive NHL games previously.

Bylsma gathered his troops for a breather at the bench, and Fleury, Sidney Crosby said, gave off a confident vibe.

“Certainly, it was not the start we wanted and not the start we anticipated,” Bylsma said. “We needed to reset. For a good 45 minutes, that was our best hockey.”

JACKETS COACH AT A LOSS

Todd Richards gave his club the silent treatment on Monday night.

“There was no message to the guys after the game,” the Columbus Blue Jackets coach said. “I think the emotion was high, the disappointment was there.

“You have to be able to put things behind you. We will have to learn from it. The emotional toll, this is where we have to manage it. I have seen teams lose three games and win series. And right now, that is our second loss.”

The Jackets held a 3-1 lead in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal and lost 4-3. In each game of the series, one team has led 3-1 and that same team has lost 4-3.

“I can’t put a finger on what it is,” Richards said. “Whether it is an emotional win or a tough loss, you put it behind you and get ready for Game 4.”


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