The Columbus Blue Jackets will take another shot at the earning the first playoff win in team history on Saturday when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Blue Jackets are in the postseason for just the second time in 13 seasons since entering the league as an expansion club in 2000-01. Columbus also qualified for the 2009 playoffs, but was swept by Detroit in four games during the opening round.
Columbus actually held a 3-1 lead over Pittsburgh in Game 1 of this best-of- seven series on Wednesday, but the Penguins scored the game's final three goals to claim a 4-3 decision and drop the Blue Jackets to 0-5 all-time in postseason contests.
Brandon Sutter scored the game-winner for Pittsburgh 8:18 into the third period after his team struggled in the early going. The Blue Jackets built a 3-1 advantage under a minute into the second period, but Pittsburgh, which finished tied for the NHL's top power-play unit in the regular season, netted a pair of power-play goals 45 seconds apart to tie the game less than 2 1/2 minutes into the middle stanza.
The Penguins finished 2-for-3 on the power play, while Columbus converted just one of four opportunities with the man advantage.
Sutter supplied the winner with a wrister from the right circle, while Marc- Andre Fleury made nine of his 31 saves over the final 20 minutes to help the Pens draw first blood in the series.
"The more shots came, the more comfortable I felt," said Fleury, who was making his first postseason start since being pulled in the opening round of Pittsburgh's run to the Eastern Conference Finals last spring. "It just feels great to win that one."
Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen each notched a goal and an assist, while Jussi Jokinen also lit the lamp for the Metropolitan Division champion Penguins, who went 5-0-0 against Columbus during the regular season.
Evgeni Malkin, who sat out Pittsburgh's final 11 games with a sprained foot, added a pair of assists, while captain Sidney Crosby picked up a helper in the triumph.
Jack Johnson collected a goal and an assist for Columbus, while Derek MacKenzie and Mark Letestu tallied a goal apiece. Sergei Bobrovsky, last season's Vezina Trophy winner, stopped 28 shots in the setback.
"There's going to be ups and downs throughout a playoff series and they've only won one game, they've gotta win four," Johnson said of his team coming back for Game 2 after blowing a two-goal lead. "It's a war of attrition and you can't get down about this."
Columbus played Game 1 without forwards Nick Foligno, Nathan Horton and R.J. Umberger, but at least one of those guys will be in the lineup on Saturday as Umberger expects to play for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on April 6.
Foligno will miss Game 2. The team is hopeful that he will be ready for Game 3.
A native of the Pittsburgh area, Umberger is eager to skate in another postseason tilt in the Steel City. The 31-year-old did face the Penguins in the 2008 playoffs at the Igloo while still a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I grew up going to these playoff games, this was my childhood and earlier in my career I got a chance to play in Mellon Arena," Umberger said. "The atmosphere was great (in Game 1) and I'm anxious and really excited to get in there."
Foligno originally had been ruled out for Game 2, but he was able to practice on Thursday and is now considered questionable for Saturday's tilt. Horton, meanwhile, will be sidelined until at least the middle of May following abdominal surgery.
The series will shift to Columbus following tonight's battle. Game 3 is scheduled for Monday at Nationwide Arena and the Blue Jackets also will host Game 4 on Wednesday.