Columbus at Pittsburgh

Sutter sends Penguins past Blue Jackets in series opener

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

PITTSBURGH -- Columbus coach Todd Richards insists his upstart team isn't in the playoffs "just to go to school."

Maybe, but the Pittsburgh Penguins provided a pretty valuable lesson in perseverance during a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.

Down two after 21 minutes of slow and sometimes sloppy hockey, the Metropolitan Division champions responded by scoring the final three goals, including Brandon Sutter's go-ahead wrist shot 8:18 into the third period.

"I think we expected a tight game," Sutter said after the third playoff goal of his career. "They got up and we stuck with it. It was a good win."

One that came with more than a few tense moments. Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh's two-goal deficit. Jussi Jokinen also scored for the Penguins and Marc-Andre Fleury overcame some shaky defense in front of him to stop 31 shots.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series will be Saturday night.

"We have to learn from it but we found a way to win," Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby said. "Obviously we didn't start the way we wanted, getting down two goals. I think we have to clean up some things."

If not, a series expected to be a romp could turn into something else entirely.

Jack Johnson, Mark Letestu and Derek Mackenzie scored for the Blue Jackets, who remain in search of their first-ever playoff win. Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 28 saves but was handcuffed by Sutter's knuckler at the end of a 2-on-1 break.

"I've seen Bob make that save a thousand times," Richards said. "It just got by him."

The Blue Jackets insisted they wouldn't be intimidated despite Pittsburgh's overwhelming edge in playoff experience and star power. The Penguins swept the five regular-season meetings between the teams, but Columbus surged after the Olympic break, rising to the seventh seed in the East while the injury-riddled Penguins coasted to a division title.

If the NHL's youngest team was scared by the stage, it hardly showed.

Johnson gave the Blue Jackets their first-ever postseason lead 6:20 into the game. He charged to the front of the net, got a feed from Brandon Dubinsky and beat Fleury with a beautiful deke from forehand to backhand.

The Penguins answered with 2:51 left in the first when Evgeni Malkin -- returning after missing three weeks with a foot injury -- took advantage of a turnover by Fedor Tyutin and hit Jokinen in the slot. The knuckling wrist shot sailed over Bobrovsky's right shoulder and Pittsburgh exhaled.

But only briefly.

With Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi off for interference, the Blue Jackets went back in front 2-1 when Letestu jammed home a rebound and sent Columbus soaring into the dressing room.

"People were wondering how we would start the game with our inexperience, but we were pretty comfortable after the first period with a 2-1 lead and maybe let off the gas," Columbus center Ryan Johansen said.

Mackenzie got loose for a breakaway short-handed goal, pushing the advantage to 3-1 just 43 seconds into the second. But Columbus' momentum then vanished against the league's top power play.

Bennett tipped in a Niskanen slap shot 51 seconds after Mackenzie scored. Johnson was quickly whistled for interference and Niskanen needed only 10 seconds to even the game with a snap shot from the left circle.

Things settled down after the five goals in 5 minutes flurry, though Columbus didn't exactly fold. The Blue Jackets carried play at times in the first two periods.

The Penguins righted themselves in the third. The miscues that plagued them for the first 40 minutes disappeared, replaced by the kind of responsible play they know they'll need to make a serious run at the franchise's fourth Stanley Cup.

"Nobody panicked," Fleury said. "The power play was huge for us like it has been all season. It got us back in the game and from then we were in good shape."

Notes

Pittsburgh is 10-3 in its past 13 Game 1s played on home ice. ... The Blue Jackets scratched forwards R.J. Umberger (upper body) and Nick Foligno (lower body), though coach Todd Richards said both players could be available for Game 2. ... Crosby assisted on Niskanen's goal to give him 106 career points in the postseason, tied with Kevin Stevens for third on the franchise list.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
Penguins wingers James Neal (left) and Chris Kunitz react after defenseman Matt Niskanen scores in the second period.  (USATSI)
Penguins wingers James Neal (left) and Chris Kunitz react after defenseman Matt Niskanen scores in the second period. (USATSI)

Scoreboard
Columbus (0-1)2103
Pittsburgh  (1-0) «1214
Three Stars
B. Sutter
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
M. Niskanen
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
J. Johnson
CLB


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
06:20 - Jack Johnson (1), Backhand Shot. Assist: Dubinsky
17:13 - Jussi Jokinen (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Malkin, Maatta
17:58Power Play - Mark Letestu (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Johnson, Jenner
2ND PERIOD
43.0Short - Derek MacKenzie (1), Wrist Shot, Unassisted.
01:34Power Play - Beau Bennett (1), Tip-In. Assist: Niskanen, Martin
02:19Power Play - Matt Niskanen (1), Snap Shot. Assist: Malkin, Crosby
3RD PERIOD
08:18 - Brandon Sutter (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Bennett, Martin
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
17:45Scuderi, 2 min, Interference
19:44Comeau, 2 min, Cross Check
2ND PERIOD
02:09Johnson, 2 min, Interference
03:11Glass, 2 min, Interference
15:30Letang, 2 min, Slashing
3RD PERIOD
10:14Tyutin, 2 min, Tripping
11:33Letang, 2 min, Interference
Shots On Goal
 123T
CLB1312934
PIT12101032
 
Other Games
Mon 5 Final
OT
TB 4
Dal 3 Final
Ana 4