The Columbus Blue Jackets held off playoff elimination by punching the Pittsburgh Penguins early and then holding on late in a 5-4 Game 4 win at Nationwide Arena.
The victory for the Blue Jackets came in their most complete effort of the playoffs. Pittsburgh pulled within one goal twice – after being down 3-0 early in the second period – but ultimately Columbus kept the Penguins from evening the score.
Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t great for his team, but made 27 saves on 31 shots on goal. Columbus forwards William Karlsson and Boone Jenner along with defenseman Markus Nutivaara each scored a goal and added an assist. Pittsburgh now leads their series 3-1.
“I just wanted them to see what it was like to win a playoff game with this team together,” coach John Tortorella said. “They accomplished that.”
The Blue Jackets got off to a strong start in the first period when defenseman Jack Johnson scored a goal at the 11:46 mark to put the game at 1-0.
Then forward Josh Anderson scored at the 18:56 mark to put his team up 2-0. The Blue Jackets fired 14 shots on goal to Pittsburgh’s six in the first 20 minutes and were clearly the more aggressive team from the get-go.
Nutivaara’s goal at the 4:48 mark of the second gave Columbus a 3-0 lead.
Then the flow of the game started to go in Pittsburgh’s favor when Blue Jackets defenseman Kyle Quincey then took an interference penalty at the 5:29 mark of the second. Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist scored on the ensuing power play to make the game 3-1 and then at the 16:24 mark, Penguins 36-year-old defenseman Ron Hainsey scored his first career playoff goal to put the game at 3-2.
The Blue Jackets withstood a flurry of activity from Pittsburgh at the end of the second and then just 27 seconds into the third period, Blue Jackets forward William Karlsson put his team up 4-2 with a backhand past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
“That was a big goal by Karlsson. That boosted our play,” Jenner said.
The two-goal lead didn’t last long when Pens forward Tom Kunhackl made the game 4-3 at the 2:10 mark of the frame.
Still, Columbus didn’t slow down and kept pressing the Pens. Jenner’s goal at the 5:27 mark of the third proved the game-winner for the Blue Jackets. A goal by Penguins forward Jake Guentzel with 27.5 seconds left in the third period was too little too late for his team.
“The most important part of it is, we bent a little bit but we end up scoring,” Tortorella said. “When they get closer, we end up with a shift and score a goal.”
Though the odds are still against Columbus for a series comeback, at least the Blue Jackets have some life. Plus the team did win 16 straight games during the regular season, so they do have the capability to win a few in a row.
“We have nothing to lose,” Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson said. “We’re still down. We’re still crawling back into this. But it’s huge for us to get momentum. A lot of guys contributed, so feel good about this, get ready to work (today) and we’ll head to Pitt. Just play our game and we’ll have success.”
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