Blue Jackets still seeking complete game against Penguins

Columbus Blue Jackets' Derek MacKenzie, right, checks Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz away from the puck during the second period of a first-round NHL playoff hockey game Monday, April 21, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus — "Blue Jackets hockey" is a thing that has yet to be seen for a full 60 minutes in this playoff series. Long stretches of it have been seen and it’s a beautiful game to watch. Fast, hard-working and physical is the mantra of playing their game.

Tonight within the raucous and friendly confines of Nationwide Arena, they played their game for all but about 10 minutes of the third. This was all the opportunity that Pittsburgh needed to take control of the game.

"They seemed to kind of do what we were doing to them," said Nick Foligno. "It seemed like a role-reversal where they were getting pucks behind us. They were really creating turnovers and having some odd-man rushes."

Foligno, back in the lineup after missing 8 games, had 13:44 of ice-time. "I feel good," he said. "I felt like I got better as the game went on. I felt more like myself. It always takes a little time to adjust to the speed, physicality and emotions. I definitely felt a lot better and I just want to help this team get some wins."

Although credited with 65 hits, 5 of which belonged to Foligno, Columbus let up on their physical play for a short time. With Pittsburgh scoring three goals in a span of 2:13, it was an uphill battle for the Blue Jackets to get back into the flow of their game.

"That’s dangerous hockey to play with a team like that," Foligno said. "And they made us pay. That’s pretty much what the difference was. We decided to play their game for about 10 minutes. It’s amazing what they can do when they get going."

Once again, it is minor tweaks that need to happen over major changes. That physical aspect of their game should be a continuous, driving force as they host Pittsburgh for Game 4 on Wednesday. Getting the puck deep, an aggressive foecheck and taking the body are all hallmarks of their game.

"It’s going to be a key for us moving forward," he said, "making sure that we stick with our game the whole time. You can see what happens when you don’t."

Once again, Columbus got off to a fast start. They had a 2-0 lead just 3:18 into the first period. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made some stellar saves in that period that were very "Bob-esque". He handled the puck with aplomb and controlled his rebounds. The team seemed to be on cruise control with their game.

When will we see the Blue Jackets play their game for a full 60 minutes in this series? What will it take to get that going?

"It’s going to take commitment," said Foligno. "It’s going to take an understanding of how good we can be when we do those things. Just because we have a fast start, doesn’t mean we can’t maintain that all the way through."

"I think you saw that tonight. It really was just a lapse. I think it’s just committing to that aspect every game and every shift. And knowing that when you do that, the outcome is real positive. We saw that in Game 2. It’s funny how the team that’s playing from behind is a little more desperate. But, we’ve got to be able to play with the lead in the playoffs."

When the team gets the puck deep, forechecks aggressively and makes their opponent play a 200 foot game, they tend to have more success. Putting it all together for a full 60 minutes is paramount. Against Pittsburgh, the skill of the Penguins can be slowed considerably by a fast, hard-hitting Blue Jackets team.

But, as Foligno said, if they stray from that aspect of their game, the results are plain to see. Creating that frustration in the Penguins can happen, as was seen in Game 2 and again last night in Game 3. Evgeni Malkin and James Neal can be goaded into taking penalties. It just takes a commitment to play their game their way till the final horn sounds.