The Columbus Blue Jackets got the win they needed in Game 4, returning the series back to Pittsburgh. Will the music play in the Blue Jackets locker room once more after Game 5?
Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins7 p.m., PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh TV: NHL Network, FSO
It's a storyline in sports now, just as sure as a losing team will meet the business end of a Crying Jordan.
If want to avoid getting made fun of on the Twitterscape, it's best not to blow a 3-1 lead.
Heck, Columbus did it in Game 3, joining such luminaries as Golden State in the NBA Finals last year and the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.
OK, the reality is that being up 3-1 is a lot better than being down. The Blue Jackets are still well behind the 8-ball in the series, but there certainly is positive momentum after the Game 4 win. The message doesn't change a ton either – Columbus still has to take it one victory at a time to have a chance to win the series.
|19.9 (12)||PP%||23.1 (3)|
|82.5 (9)||PK%||79.8 (20)|
|3.01 (6)||GF||3.39 (1)|
|2.35 (2)||GA||2.79 (17)|
|48.6 (20)||FO%||47.6 (28)|
"We're not going to change how we go about it," head coach John Tortorella said. "I have thoughts on how to present it to them a little bit differently as we get ready for our next game. I think you're always looking for, as a coach, trying to find a way to communicate with them to where it sinks in."
Encouraging signs for Columbus have been many. The team has slightly altered its attack when it comes to physical play, working more on its forecheck rather than hitting anything that moves. After Columbus couldn't get anything going against Marc-Andre Fleury in the first two games, the Pittsburgh netminder has given up nine goals in the last two. And Columbus has seen some positive signs out of its defensive corps and Sergei Bobrovsky.
It's all part and parcel with a team learning how to win in the postseason.
"It's not like we played a flawless game," Tortorella said of Game 4. "I just finished breaking down the tape on the plane coming over, and I looked at some things that we really didn't want to have happen that way, but I think we're going to be better because it did and still found a way to win."
On the other side, Pittsburgh was left licking its wounds following the loss to Columbus. The Penguins occasionally showed some of their lethal offensive chops on the way to four tallies, but the the Blue Jackets had the advantage in puck possession and never let Pittsburgh get the momentum toward Bobovsky save for a few short stretches.
"Our team is capable of playing a better game on both sides of puck. That was discussion today," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan said. "What I love about our team is how we respond to adversity. We can be better. And we know it."
3 KEYS TO GAME 5
Win special teams: Columbus is at just 11.1 percent (1-9) on the power play and 72.7 percent (8-11) on the penalty kill this series. At some point, the Blue Jackets have to win the special teams battle if they're going to keep this series going as long as they want to.
Take the crowd out of it: The Blue Jackets seemed to play off the energy of the Nationwide Arena crowds in Games 3 and 4, taking a two-goal lead after the first period of each. This time around, the goal is the opposite. Pittsburgh has an energetic building, and getting behind early would make the mountain that much higher to climb.
Play with no fear: Columbus said it would simply let it rip in Game 4 and did just that, playing with abandon that had been missing to that point. They must do the same in Pittsburgh in Game 5.
YOU OUGHTA KNOW
Columbus: Oliver Bjorkstrand has yet to score a goal in this series, but he came close a number of times in Game 4. He brings an element of danger not many players in the league can match, and for the series, he's been on the ice at 5-on-5 for 55 shots for and just 27 against. The next step is to get a goal, and Bjorkstrand seems due.
Pittsburgh: Much of the focus this series has been on the line that includes Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, especially with the latter boasting five goals in the series. But the line involving Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel has been just as good. Malkin, in particular, is rolling with two goals and six assists in the series for eight points, an average of two per game. Malkin had a hat trick the last time the Pens ended Columbus' season. Could it happen again?
- Game 1 PIT 3, CBJ 1: Despite a first-period shots blitz, Columbus fell behind 3-0 on the way to losing the opener. Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist for the Pens, while Matt Calvert scored the lone goal for the Jackets in the third.
- Game 2 PIT 4, CBJ 1: A first-period error by Sergei Bobrovsky gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead and Guentzel answered Brandon Saad's equalizer in the second as Columbus fell into a 2-0 hole in the series.
- Game 3 PIT 5, CBJ 4 (OT): Two goals by Cam Atkinson awoke the Columbus offense as the Jackets took a 3-1 lead in the first before Pittsburgh's pushback gave the Pens a 4-3 lead. Brandon Dubinsky's equalizer tied the game in the last five minutes, but Jake Guentzel's OT tally won it for Pittsburgh.
- Game 4 CBJ 5, PIT 4: Columbus never trailed, using a good start and 3-0 lead as a springboard to their first victory of the series. Five different Jackets scored as the team answered each Pittsburgh threat.
- Dec. 22, 2016 CBJ 7, PIT 1: Scott Hartnell rings up a hat trick as the Blue Jackets explode for seven goals at Nationwide Arena for win 11 in the team's 16-game streak.
- Feb. 3, 2017 PIT 4, CBJ 3 (OT): The first meeting of the campaign in Pittsburgh ended with Phil Kessel's OT winner, but Columbus fought back from a 3-1 deficit in the third to tie it.
- Feb. 17, 2017 CBJ 2, PIT 1 (OT): Dubinsky (who else?) played the hero, sliding into the slot and scoring in OT to delight the Jackets' home crowd.
- April 5, 2017 PIT 4, CBJ 1: Columbus essentially ceded home ice in the first round with this loss as the Penguins never trailed on the way to the victory in the Steel City.
Penguins Projected Lineup
Pittsburgh has used the same lineup for each of its four games, with a number of players like Carl Hagelin and Chad Ruhwedel still battling back from injuries.
|59||JAKE GUENTZEL||4 GP, 5-1-6||87||SIDNEY CROSBY||4 GP, 1-5-6||43||CONOR SHEARY||4 GP, 0-1-1|
|17||BRYAN RUST||4 GP, 2-0-2||71||EVGENI MALKIN||4 GP, 2-6-8||81||PHIL KESSEL||4 GP, 1-4-5|
|23||SCOTT WILSON||4 GP, 0-0-0||13||NICK BONINO||4 GP, 1-0-1||72||PATRIC HORNQVIST||4 GP, 2-1-3|
|34||TOM KUHNHACKL||4 GP, 1-1-2||7||MATT CULLEN||4 GP, 0-2-2||37||CARTER ROWNEY||4 GP, 0-0-0|
|28||IAN COLE||4 GP, 0-3-3, 0||4||JUSTIN SCHULTZ||4 GP, 0-2-2, 0|
|8||BRIAN DUMOULIN||4 GP, 0-1-1, +1||65||RON HAINSEY||4 GP, 1-1-2, +1|
|3||OLLI MAATTA||4 GP, 0-1-1, +2||6||TREVOR DALEY||4 GP, 0-0-0, +1|
Blue Jackets Projected Lineup
John Tortorella's four lineup changes paid off as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak turned in solid showings among forwards while defensemen Markus Nutivaara and Kyle Quincey solidified the back end.
|71||NICK FOLIGNO||4 GP, 0-2-2||17||BRANDON DUBINSKY||4 GP, 1-1-2||13||CAM ATKINSON||4 GP, 2-0-2|
|38||BOONE JENNER||4 GP, 1-1-2||10||ALEXANDER WENNBERG||4 GP, 0-1-1||20||BRANDON SAAD||4 GP, 1-2-3|
|28||OLIVER BJORKSTRAND||4 GP, 0-1-1||45||LUKAS SEDLAK||1 GP, 0-0--0||89||SAM GAGNER||4 GP, 0-1-1|
|11||MATT CALVERT||3 GP, 1-1-2||25||WILLIAM KARLSSON||4 GP, 1-1-2||34||JOSH ANDERSON||4 GP, 1-1-2|
|26||KYLE QUINCEY||1 GP, 0-1-1, +1||3||SETH JONES||4 GP, 0-1-1, -2|
|7||JACK JOHNSON||4 GP, 1-1-2, -2||58||DAVID SAVARD||4 GP, 0-1-1, -3|
|53||GABRIEL CARLSSON||4 GP, 0-0-0, 0||65||MARKUS NUTIVAARA||1 GP, 1-1-2, +2|