Matt Calvert's goal in double OT evens series for Blue Jackets
Coach Dan Bylsma is looking for an answer.
His Penguins have opened the Stanley Cup playoffs looking not so special.
They allowed three special-teams scores Saturday in a 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Consol Energy Center.
With the win — the Blue Jackets' first in six postseason contests — a best-of-seven series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 slated for Monday at Columbus' Nationwide Arena.
The Penguins — No. 1 on the power play and No. 5 on the penalty kill during the regular season — are minus-1 on special teams through two games of Round 1.
“I don't necessarily have an answer,” Bylsma said after Game 2, which ended when Blue Jackets winger Matt Calvert scored one minute, 10 seconds into the second overtime.
The Blue Jackets pulled even with about six minutes remaining in regulation on a power-play goal by defenseman Jack Johnson.
Calvert's winning goal came off a rebound. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury sprawled to make the last of his 41 saves by stopping Calvert's previous shot. Fleury also had denied Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson from point-blank range.
With Rob Scuderi behind the net and fellow defenseman Kris Letang likely covering for him to Fleury's stick side, the Penguins left Calvert unmarked. He roofed the winner.
The Penguins had failed to convert on a power play that carried over from the first overtime. They went 1 for 8 on the power play in Game 2 and are 3 for 11 in the series.
“It's just bad execution,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We aren't creating enough consistently. We either aren't entering (the offensive zone) well, or we're forcing stuff once we are.
“Special teams are huge in the playoffs. We've been on the wrong side. We've got to be better.”
Worse would prove frightful.
The Penguins also have surrendered three power-play goals, and they allowed a short-handed score for the second consecutive game. Calvert notched one in Game 2, and it has swung the series.
The Penguins were ahead 3-1 when center Evgeni Malkin could not control the puck near the boards on a second-period power play. Malkin was one of four forwards on the ice during the Penguins' man-advantage.
The same four forwards — Malkin and Crosby and wingers James Neal and Chris Kunitz — were also on the ice in Game 1, when center Derek MacKenzie scored early in the second period to stake the Blue Jackets a 3-1 lead.
Teams with two-goal leads are 0-2 in this series.
Had the Penguins protected their 3-1 lead Saturday night, they probably would have assured themselves advancement to the second round. They are 6-0 when taking Games 1 and 2 of a series the past seven postseasons.
The Penguins also have failed to sweep Games 1 and 2 at home in seven of the past eight postseason series. They are 2-2 in series when splitting Games 1 and 2 at home during the Crosby era.
Crosby had two assists in Game 2, but he and Malkin combined to go 17 of 46 on faceoffs after winning 23 of 41 draws in Game 1.
Neither Crosby nor Malkin have scored a goal in the last six playoff games, and the Penguins have lost five of those contests.
Crosby, the presumptive MVP after leading the league in scoring during the regular season, was not even forced to deal with Columbus' best two-way center, Brandon Dubinsky, as Game 2 went on.
“I saw the success that other guys were having against Crosby,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “It wasn't something I needed to chase.”
Not only have the favored Penguins looked far from special to open the playoffs, but their best player also is not even receiving special treatment anymore from the opponent.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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