Two games. Two nearly identical outcomes.
The Pittsburgh Penguins took a big 2–0 lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup against Columbus Blue Jackets with a 4-1 win on home ice.
Tonight's doom wasn't defined by an awful eight-minute stretch of the second period, like it was in Game 1. Rather, the wounds were slow, steady and self-inflicted for the Blue Jackets Friday night in Pittsburgh.
The Blue Jackets nearly put the first goal on the board six minutes into play when a Sam Gagner shot trickled past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but his defense was able to sweep it away.
Sidney Crosby, who was largely invisible in the first game of the series, lit the lamp first when Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky misplayed a puck behind his net and Conor Sheary was able to send it to the crease, where Crosby did what Crosby does so well.
Similar to Game 1, when the Blue Jackets controlled the first period, the Penguins were being outshot 8–0 when Crosby scored.
Boborvsky would redeem himself in the period, stopping a Justin Schultz blast, Tom Kuhnhackl on a 2-on-1 and then, with 3:30 remaining, he shut down Patric Hörnqvist on the doorstep.
The first period stats told just how much the Blue Jackets controlled play in the first. They led on shots, 11–7, and hits, 26–9, but trailed in the only stat that mattered heading into the first intermission.
Columbus nearly got the equalizer seconds into the middle period when Brandon Dubinsky found Cam Atkinson behind the Pens' defense, but Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would come up huge as he would all night.
The hits and flow would intensify in the second as the Penguins took control of the action, but the Blue Jackets were able to withstand the waves.
Brandon Saad, benched in the third period of Game 1, would tie things up seven minutes into the period on a wrister that beat Fleury high glove side.
Alexander Wennberg and Seth Jones picked up helpers on the goal for Columbus.
Unfortunately, the game would remain tied for all of 51 seconds.
|0 of 2||POWER PLAY||0 of 2|
Jake Guentzel restored Pittsburgh's lead when he punched in a slick cross-ice feed from Crosby on a break.
The Blue Jackets would earn the first power play of the evening at 17:34 of the second when Brian Dumoulin was whistled for holding Boone Jenner. Gagner and Wennberg set up a nice chance, but Fluery shut it down.
The Jackets would end the period storming the Pens goal, but again, came away with nothing. Following the period, a fight erupted on the boards and Brandon Dubinsky was sent to the bin to start the third for dropping his gloves.
Columbus killed the Penguins' power play to start the final period, but Evgeni Malkin made the Blue Jackets pay one second after the man advantage expired when he deflected a tough angle shot off of Bobrovsky into the net to make it a 3-1 game.
The Blue Jackets would have some chances down the stretch, but were unable to make anything stick. Fleury turned in a brilliant night, stopping 39 shots and Hörnqvist would tack on an empty netter at with 46 seconds to play.
His counterpart, Bobrovsky, stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced. The likely Vezina winner will need to be better in Columbus than he has been in the first two games of this series.
For being down two games, there wasn't a sense of panic in the Blue Jackets locker room.
“We need to bang,“ Atkinson said following the loss. “All lines, I think we're doing that. We fore-checked hard and we got chances. We just have to bury them, myself included. But it is what it is. And we just have to feel good, feel confident. We're going back home to our barn, to our fans. We'll be ready.”
How about some home cooking? The series shifts back to Columbus for Game 3 Sunday. The puck drops at 6 p.m., with FSO and CNBC televising the action.
The game will be just the sixth Stanley Cup Playoff game played at Nationwide Arena.