Blue Jackets notebook: Columbus wants another crack at playing with lead
COLUMBUS — Twice bitten, the Columbus Blue Jackets wouldn't mind another crack at playing with a two-goal lead when they face the Penguins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup first-round series Wednesday at Nationwide Arena.
The Penguins fell behind 3-1 in Games 1 and 3 but rallied for 4-3 wins each time. Game 2 was the reverse. Columbus overcame a 3-1 deficit and emerged with a 4-3 double overtime win.
“I'll tell you, I'd take a 3-1 lead in the next game for sure,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said. “Having a lead at any point in a hockey game is what you want. It's the ideal situation. We're hoping to have a 3-1 lead in the next game.”
On Monday, the Penguins twice came back from two-goal deficits after allowing a pair of goals in the opening 3:18 of the game.
But a Brooks Orpik goal with two seconds left in the middle period pulled the Penguins to within 2-1. Despite a Cam Atkinson goal early in the third period to regain the two-goal margin for Columbus, the Penguins struck for goals by Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen 2:13 apart to leave the Blue Jackets wondering how the game got away.
“You're going to get a push from the opposition, and this is a pretty good opposition that we're playing against, a pretty talented group,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “So they're going to make it challenging on you. Maybe slowing it down and more whistles, if you can. We just have to find a way.”
Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski was asked if his team being so youthful and playoff inexperienced can be blamed for losing leads.
“You could probably argue that right now because we're a young team and haven't closed a game out” he said. “At the same time, it's sometimes realizing to keep your foot on the gas. Sometimes when you play that prevent defense it prevents you from winning hockey games.”
Columbus center Atkinson said Game 3, the first in Columbus, was similar to Game 1 because both presented new experiences for the majority of the players. The Blue Jackets had not been in the playoffs since 2009, and only three players remain from that team. Columbus had 11 players make their Stanley Cup debuts in Game 1.
“It was our first opportunity for us in Pittsburgh, and maybe we weren't really used to that feeling” he said. “It was sort of the same way (Monday). It was our first experience playing at home.
“We weren't really sure how the building was going to turn out. Obviously it was great. It was unbelievable. Now we know what to expect coming into Game 4.”
Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu was pleased that the majority of fans in Nationwide Arena were rooting for the home team. That's not usually the case against the Penguins.
“The expectations for us when they come here in the regular season is pretty split, really 50-50,” the former Penguins said. “So when they came out on the ice and had some boos, it was pleasant. It was nice to know it was a true home ice for us.
“A lot of people have been waiting a long time and have been patient with this organization and to finally get the chance to flex their muscles as a hockey city and prove that Columbus is worthy of that title. You could tell (Monday) with the noise, it was a celebration for them.”
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