There will be no sweep.
Behind a gutty home ice performance, including breakout play from several players seeing postseason action for the first time this series, the Columbus Blue Jackets vanquished the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-3, Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena to force a Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The game started ominously for the Blue Jackets as captain Nick Foligno was whistled for hooking just 19 seconds in. His teammates responded, aggressively killing the Penguins' power play and holding the potent unit to just one shot on net.
Columbus took control after that, dominating play for stretches in Pittsburgh's zone. Oliver Bjorkstrand nearly punched in the game's first goal 8:22 in when he beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but ran out of room on the backhand.
Finally, at 11:46 of the first, defenseman Jack Johnson put the Jackets up 1-0 when his pass from the right point deflected off of Sidney Crosby's skate, past Fleury. David Savard had the assist on the goal.
Four minutes later, Pittsburgh's Ian Cole was called for high-sticking, giving the Blue Jackets their first power play of the game. They failed to score, but the power play was as crisp as Blue Jackets fans have seen in a while with nearly a half a dozen great chances.
With 1:04 remaining in the first, Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson made it 2-0, when he blasted a shot through Fluery on a break a couple of feet out. Defenseman Kyle Quincey, seeing his first action of the series for Columbus, sprung the play by breaking up a Pittsburgh pass at the Columbus blue line and found William Karlsson, who started the rush.
It was 2-0, Blue Jackets, as the last minute of the first period played out and Nationwide Arena was rocking, thanks to dominating play – beyond the lead on the scoreboard, Columbus outshot the Penguins 14–6 in the opening session – from the home team.
The second period had been trouble for the Blue Jackets all series, with the Penguins outscoring them 6-1 and outshooting Columbus 47–28 in the three games played, but Tuesday night would be different.
Markus Nutivaara, also making his first appearance of the series, made it 3-0, Blue Jackets, 4:48 into the second when he wristed in a rebound of a Boone Jenner shot from just inside the right dot. Brandon Saad was credited with the secondary assist on the goal.
Less than a minute later, Quincey was called for interference, giving the Penguins another power play, and they quickly capitalized when Patric Hornqvist beat Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky a minute into the man advantage.
Pittsburgh would start to dictate play as the second period progressed, ultimately getting another goal to cut the Blue Jackets' lead to 3-2, when Ron Hainsey banged a miracle past Bobrovsky from a sharp angle.
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It had taken the Penguins nearly seven minutes to record their first shot of the second period, but they closed it in a fury narrowing the big lead in that department the Blue Jackets held and the home team had to have been happy getting to the second intermission with the lead.
The break did wonders for Columbus as Karlsson scored his first goal of the series just 27 seconds into the third, when he backhanded his own rebound off the board past Fluery to make it 5-2, Blue Jackets.
Ninety seconds later, the Penguins once again cut the home team's lead to one when Tom Kuhnhackl beat Bobrovsky from in close. It was a huge goal at the time from the Penguins' fourth line.
At 5:37 of the third, Boone Jenner got the insurance goal for Columbus when he banged in a rebound, beating Fleury low. Saad and Nutivarra were credited with assists on the goal.
Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel, who has been on fire of late, scored his fifth of series when the Penguins had an empty goal late, but that would be all.
Karlsson earned first star honors for Columbus thanks to his game-winning goal and assist on the evening. Jenner and Nutivaara had 1–1–2 nights, while Saad finished with two helpers, and Josh Anderson recorded a goal and +3 on the night.
Bobrovsky, criticized for pedestrian play through the first three games, stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced on the night. Not quite the Vezina-level play we saw from him this season, but good enough to buy the Blue Jackets another game.
The series shifts to Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena for Game 5 on Thursday.