Blue Jackets score a franchise first with playoff victory
So this is what one of those feels like.
The Columbus Blue Jackets' comeback from a two-goal deficit not only evened their Eastern Conference first-round series with the Penguins at one game apiece, but it also made franchise history.
An expansion team in 2000, Columbus won an NHL playoff game for the first time when forward Matt Calvert scored 70 seconds into second overtime to produce a 4-3 win Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
“It's unbelievable,” Calvert said. “I think every year of my life I've watched the NHL playoffs, and you always dream about being the hero in overtime.
“I think it's real special for our organization, our first career win. We battled for it. It didn't come easy.”
Calvert finished a rebound off a Cam Atkinson shot to Marc-Andre Fleury's left for his second goal of the game.
The goal — fittingly — was the first game-winner in the playoffs for the 24-year-old Calvert.
Was Saturday night's win the jolt the Blue Jackets needed to get back into the series?
Calvert thinks so.
“You could see the celebration on the ice,” Calvert said. “It's a big step for us as a group and as an organization. It felt great. I think we're going to enjoy it (Saturday). It's a long series. We got a split, and we're happy with that.”
Game 3 is Monday in Columbus at Nationwide Arena.
At the center of Columbus' surge has been 21-year-old center Ryan Johansen, who scored 33 goals during the regular season and added a power-play goal in the first period Saturday.
A veteran of a whopping two playoff games, Johansen has appeared comfortable here. He has shown himself to be mature beyond his years by saying all the right things.
His takeaway from Game 1?
“Really showing everybody we could play with these guys.”
What could Columbus do better?
“We just have to find a way to hold a lead against these guys and get off to a good start.”
The start could have been better — Brian Gibbons scored twice in the first five minutes — but the finish was a thing of beauty.
The Blue Jackets outplayed the Penguins for several stretches.
This time, it was the Penguins who couldn't hold the lead — much different than Columbus squandering a 3-1 edge in Game 1.
After Matt Niskanen scored on the power play to create the two-goal edge Saturday, Calvert struck short-handed, the second straight game that's happened for Columbus.
Defenseman Jack Johnson's wrist shot at 13:59 of the third period tied it.
“We've faced adversity all season,” center Brandon Dubinsky said. “You never want to spot the other team a 3-1 lead. It happened to us in Game 1, but we just kept playing. We were on our heels a little bit in the first. After that, we said we could play with these guys. We started going after them, and we created a lot of opportunities. (Marc-Andre) Fleury played well for them. It took four periods and a bit to get it done.”
Plum native R.J. Umberger returned to the Columbus lineup after missing the past four games with an upper-body injury.
He played 15:39 and finished a minus-1 with one shot and one blocked shot.
“It's a fast game,” Umberger said. “First period took a little bit to get going. As the game went on, I felt stronger and stronger. I was cramping there at the end, but what a feeling to win that game.”
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
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