Apr 21, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov (42) and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) battle for position during the first period in game three of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Outhustled, outscored and just about everything but outshot, the Pittsburgh Penguins were two forgettable periods into being on the wrong end of another result — and very much on the wrong end of a Columbus Blue Jackets upset in the making.
Then, late in Monday night’s second period, veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik turned into Sidney Crosby and turned a spin move into a goal.
It wasn’t just a game changer. It might be a series changer.
Game Three went to the Penguins, 4-3, and it went that way after a wild third period rally from 3-1 down, the third such rally to the third such final score in this series. The Penguins are up 2-1 in the series because they finally got some bounces, finally started crashing the net, finally cashed a few in. Three different players scored the third period goals, the winner that was credited to Jussi Jokinen coming off Blue Jackets James Wisniewski in front of the net and into the back of it with 12:54 left.
It started with Orpik and his goal in the final two seconds of the second period that cut Pittsburgh’s deficit to 2-1.
Just in time.
"I knew there wasn’t much time left," Orpik said. "We just stuck with it. We gained momentum. Even down 2-0, we knew we were playing the right way.
"That goal was big. We just couldn’t get one by before that."
With the Penguins mounting an attack late in the second but the Blue Jackets always kicking or poking potential chances away Orpik spun after taking a pass, gathered himself, and got blasted by Matt Calvert after releasing the puck.
Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had been brilliant to that point, stopping the Penguins first 25 shots, but Orpik’s shot got past him with 0.7 showing on the clock. A second was later added, but it didn’t matter. Momentum swung. On the visiting bench, confidence grew.
On this Penguins team, Orpik is an unlikely Bobrovsky breaker. Orpik had two goals all regular season; he went from October 12 to March 16 without scoring one.
"You don’t know where you’re going to get it from," a smiling Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Huge."
Orpik had 12 goals in his career and one in 89 previous career playoff games before his second and latest set the stage for a three-goal flurry in the span of 2:13 in the third. Better late than never, the Penguins gathered themselves and regained control in a competitive series in which not much is going to come easy.
"We thought we needed to keep throwing pucks at the cage," Bylsma said. "We had chances. We had good looks. We needed to stay on that and win the second which is what we unded up doing with that goal.
"Regardless of who it comes from, getting that goal right there was really big for our team."
For now, the Penguins have regained home-ice advantage and have made it seem like their big-stage experience edge matters again. The Blue Jackets won two periods Monday night, but the Penguins won from there.
"We could have managed the puck better there, especially with just seconds on the clock," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said of Orpik’s goal. "You just sit on it."
Now, the Blue Jackets will sleep on it. Or, more likely, they won’t.
Nationwide Arena was rocking from the start Monday night and the home team came out firing, scoring twice in the first 3:18 to go up 2-0 and force Bylsma to take a timeout. Even after Orpik’s goal, the Blue Jackets added another on a Cam Atkinson deflection just over a minute into the third period.
Just like they did in Game One, the Penguins turned it on once they got down 3-1. For the game, Pittsburgh outshot the Blue Jackets, 41-20, and finally starting getting shots into the net.
"We weren’t scoring but we were doing good things," said Crosby, who got an assist on the third-period equalizer. "We had the puck a lot. We just had to stick with it. We showed a lot of character, a lot of patience."
Said Bylsma: "That was maybe one of our best games at just staying forcused, staying on course, playing the right away. For a good 45 minutes that was our best hockey. We stayed the course, gained momentum, stayed focused. Our experience and confidence in just continuing to play, play the right way, it ended up working out."