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Penguins' momentum squashed by 2nd intermission in Game 4

| Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 12:21 a.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The key moment in Game 4 of the first-round series between the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night may not have been a goal, a save or a hit. Probably wasn't a turnover or a blown coverage either.

It just might have been the horn that sounded the end of the second period that most helped Columbus to a 5-4, season-saving victory.

The Penguins have struggled to some degree or another in the first period of all four games in the series. Tuesday night was no exception.

They fell behind 2-0 on goals by Jack Johnson and Josh Anderson. Making matters worse for the Penguins in a way that didn't happen in the first three games of the series, the run bled over into the second period as well, when Markus Nutivaara scored to make it 3-0 about five minutes in.

The Penguins, however, began their customary comeback shortly thereafter.

About two minutes after Nutivaara scored, Patric Hornqvist redirected in a Justin Schultz shot on a power play to make it 3-1.

Ten minutes later, Ron Hainsey surprised goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with a quick shot from the right half-wall past a Bryan Rust screen to make it 3-2.

“Got some life,” Schultz said. “Got that power-play goal, and I think the bench got a little life. Ronny scored and gave ourselves a chance.”

Here-we-go-again thoughts had to be at least creeping into the minds of the Blue Jackets, and the Penguins did what they could to promote them.

For the rest of the second period, the Penguins kept up the pressure. They had a 9-1 advantage in shot attempts and a 5-1 edge in shots. The fourth line buzzed around the net, then the second line followed suit.

Bobrovsky held his ground, however, and the period came to an end.

The Penguins failed to restart the surge in the third period. The rally was over. The moment had passed.

“We had a good stretch there, put a lot of pressure on them,” center Matt Cullen said. “We had quite a few really good chances, and obviously if you can go in tied there, that's a big deal. But credit the goalie. He played well, and they kind of held on. They played a more desperate game than us, I thought.”

Columbus coach John Tortorella has been unfailingly confident in his team throughout the first four games of the series, even when things looked dire. They just needed a few improvements to turn things around, he'd say.

But even Tortorella acknowledged the timing of the end of the second period might have been fortuitous for his team Tuesday night.

“After the second goal, we got small a little bit,” Tortorella said. “You could just see we were in a little bit of panic. We started turning pucks over and that's a good team. They can sense the blood in the water. But we got through it.

“After the second goal, we really struggled. I thought Bob made some key saves there. But I told him in between periods, ‘You got through it. We're still up by a goal. We just have to get our momentum back.' ”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins celebrate Ron Hainsey's goal against the Blue Jackets in the second period Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at Nationwide Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin celebrate with Patric Hornqvist after Hornqvist's goal against the Blue Jackets in the second period Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at Nationwide Arena.
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