Blue Jackets, city relish first playoff victory
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While the Columbus Blue Jackets feel good about their historic double-overtime victory Saturday against the Penguins, they have to push it aside or Game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series will not end well for them.
“You've got to enjoy the moment, but there also comes a moment you've got to put it behind you and focus on Game 3,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said Sunday. “If we're still trying to live off what happened (Saturday), we're not going to be ready for tomorrow and I guarantee the team that we're playing tomorrow is going to be ready to go.”
The Blue Jackets had an optional skate Sunday afternoon and were still reliving what Matt Calvert's goal 70 seconds into the second OT for the 4-3 victory meant to the organization and the city.
Not only did it even the series after two games, but it was the first playoff win for a franchise that began in the 2000-01 season. The Blue Jackets were swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings in their only other postseason appearance.
The congratulations to the team started flowing as soon as the game ended.
“There were lots of texts coming in (Saturday) night,” Richards said. “That's one of the great things about playing playoff hockey — we were the only 7 o'clock game going last night and everybody was watching and it was a great hockey game.”
Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski said he could tell from the messages he was receiving that “the city was really buzzing after the win.”
That's fine, but he cautioned against making too much of the Blue Jackets' first win.
“Now it's move on and see what mistakes we made and do better and the good things we can build on for tomorrow night's game,” he said.
The young Blue Jackets have been pesky and have tried to throw the Penguins off their game with a gritty, punishing system.
“Obviously with their superstars on their side and the potential on their team, for us we have to play relentless, greasy hockey and stick to our style and try to wear them down as much as we can and find ways to win hockey games,” Columbus center Ryan Johansen said.
The Blue Jackets have kept Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin off the goal sheet through two games and have scored two shorthanded goals. They also rallied from a 3-1 deficit Saturday, but Wisniewski scoffs at the notion the veteran Penguins are flustered.
“I don't think we're in their heads,” he said. “They know what the series is going to be. It's going to be hard-fought series to the bitter end. There's going to be some bumps and bruises for whoever comes away with the series.”
Richards added that losing home-ice advantage and facing an electric setting in Nationwide Arena the next two games is nothing new for the Penguins.
“They've been in this position before where they've been tied in the series, and they've had to go on the road,” he said. “They know what it takes. … I guarantee they've been 1-1 and Sidney Crosby and Malkin haven't scored, haven't maybe got the points they want.
“You can say they're frustrated. They've been through it and they know how to deal with it.”
Richards hopes his team can handle the situation and stay disciplined.
“The atmosphere in here is going to be great,” he said. “We've got to use some of that, but you can't let that distract us and take us over the edge.”
Craig Merz is a freelance writer.