Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky (17) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) chase after a loose puck during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the last two games of a highly competitive series, desperation has won out.
With Game Four tonight, that’s not lost in the Columbus Blue Jackets locker room. Ditto just down the hallway with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Wednesday night brings one the Blue Jackets have to have, the biggest game in franchise history since the one two nights ago. In that game the Blue Jackets led 3-1 in the third period before a Penguins flurry carried the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed to a 4-3 victory.
All three games have been 4-3. In all three, the winning team has trailed 3-1 before scoring the last three goals.
"You obviously don’t want a 3-1 lead," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards joked. "I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it creates a little more desperation in the team that’s trailing."
In Game Two, the Penguins scored all three of their goals in the first period. The Blue Jackets took charge of the game in the second period but needed a full overtime period and 1:10 of the second overtime before breaking through.
In Monday night’s Game Three, the Blue Jackets scored twice in the first five minutes but the Penguins spent much of the game dominating puck possession and the shots total (41-26). A goal in the final two seconds of the second period cut Pittsburgh’s deficit to 2-1, but the Blue Jackets struck again early in the third to make it 3-1.
All three Penguins third-period goals came in a span of 2:13, deflating what had been a lively crowd and the Blue Jackets team and giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 series lead.
Now comes Game Four, one the Blue Jackets absolutely have to have.
"We’ve been good all year at letting one game go and getting on to the next one," Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen said after Game Three. "I want to play again right now — I mean right now."
The Blue Jackets want to continue their physical play but avoid taking penalties and allowing the Penguins to attack with their power-play unit that was the NHL’s best during the regular season. The Penguins got plenty of shots Monday night but know they got some fortunate bounces to finally get them past Sergei Bobrovsky in the third.
Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma said he wants his players to "keep pestering Bobrovsky with shots, keep getting to the cage."
We’ll see if a 3-1 lead again becomes the opposite of the magic number.
"It’s weird, and it’s just the way the series has been going," Penguins forward Joe Vitale said. "But you still want that lead. It’s important to have that lead. I know the way it’s gone but I’ll always take a 3-1 start over a (deficit) every time.
"It’s just such an emotional series. It’s two emotional teams, good teams. There are going to be swings. With high emotion, when you’re down a couple goals you come back swinging — you need it, you’re going to put it out there. It’s a momentum series. Both teams are bringing high intensity."