PITTSBURGH — It took longer than usual, but the Blue Jackets left PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night the same way they’d left in their previous 12 visits.
Despite taking a 4-0 lead on Liam Foudy’s goal early in the second period, the Jackets allowed five unanswered goals — including three in the first 3:59 of the third — and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 on Sidney Crosby’s power-play goal 2:45 into overtime.
"We talked before the game that we needed to win a lot of 50/50 pucks all over the ice and I felt we were doing that the first 40 minutes," Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine said. "Then our line got scored on (in the third) and it just started, pretty much, the yard sale by us and we were just scared to play in that first five minutes or so (of the third). They're going to take advantage of that, but we've got to be happy with the first 40 minutes."
The loss was the 13th straight for the Blue Jackets (20-37-7) in Pittsburgh and eighth in a row to the Penguins regardless of location. It was also a harsh lesson for the NHL’s youngest team, which is missing multiple key players due to injuries and lost starting goalie Elvis Merzlikins (seven saves) to an illness after just one period.
Emil Bemstom and Foudy led the Blue Jackets with a goal and assist each. Laine and Lane Pederson scored the other two goals, and rookie Kent Johnson had two assists. Jason Zucker had two goals and Crosby added a goal and two assists to lead the Penguins (32-22-9), who hold the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference and need every point they can get to hang onto it.
Trailing 4-1 to start the third, Pittsburgh rallied to tie it 4-4 in the first 3:59 on three straight goals scored by Jake Guentzel, Zucker and Danton Heinen, including the last two scored 43 seconds apart and separated by a Blue Jackets timeout.
After relieving Merzlikins (illness) to start the second and stopping 15 of 16 shots that period, Blue Jackets goalie Michael Hutchinson allowed three goals on the first seven shots of the third and was beaten by Crosby's one-timer in overtime.
Pittsburgh also made a goalie change after Foudy's goal in the second. Casey DeSmith (15 saves) replaced Tristan Jarry, who allowed four goals on 12 shots.
Columbus played one of its best periods this season in the first, taking a 3-0 lead on goals by Bemstrom, Pederson and Laine. Bemstom capped a power play 4:02 into the game, making it 1-0 with a one-timer off a feed from Cole Sillinger, and Pederson made it 2-0 just 3:52 later by following Foudy’s shot/pass for his first goal in six games since being claimed off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
Laine’s team-leading 20th goal pushed it to 3-0 at 10:11 of the first to complete the Columbus scoring that period, snapping a hard shot into an open net after Jack Roslovic deked Jarry and left a drop pass in the slot.
Hutchinson replaced Merzlikins (illness) to start the second, which started with Foudy’s third goal of the season to put the Blue Jackets up 4-0 and forced Sullivan to replace Jarry.
Pittsburgh its climb later in the second on Zucker's first of the game, scored at 10:23 to cut the Blue Jackets’ lead to 4-1. The start of the third was all Penguins, who flipped the game on its ear with three quick goals to tie.
“We built a lead on the road," Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. "They get a couple early (in the third), they get the crowd into it. Certainly, we don’t have a ton of veteran guys in there, so we’ve got to handle that pressure and those swings. But ... proud of our guys. It got to 4-4 and it could’ve gotten way out of hand and we pushed right back. We were right there and we almost got to the fifth goal.”
The Penguins dominated the start of the third, flipping the game upside down with goals by Guentzel, Zucker and Heinen in the first 3:59 to tie it 4-4 and make it a new game.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets blow lead, lose to Pittsburgh Penguins