Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter scored a goal with 11:42 to play in the third period, and that proved to be the deciding tally in Pittsburgh's 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in game one of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs from Consol Energy Center Wednesday night.
Sutter took a pass from right winger Beau Bennett and defenseman Paul Martin and wristed a shot behind Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the go-ahead score. His goal was the third of three straight for the Penguins, who registered the final three scores in the game.
"We've got to be better with the puck, especially at the blue lines," Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu told Fox Sports Ohio. "Five on five, I thought we played the game pretty strong, but again, the special-teams battle cost us tonight. They get one more than us, and it's the difference in the hockey game."
The Blue Jackets got on the scoreboard first when defenseman Jack Johnson took a pass from forward Brandon Dubinsky and backhanded a shot past the reach of Marc-Andre Fleury at the 6:20 mark of the opening period.
Dubinsky broke free up the left side of the ice before skipping the puck through a Penguins defender and spinning around another before sliding a pass over to Johnson, who then jammed home the goal by a downed Fleury's glove side.
However, the Blue Jackets' first-ever lead in a Stanley Cup Playoff game lasted less than 10 minutes.
With less than three minutes left in the first period, Pittsburgh left winger Jussi Jokinen wristed a shot past Bobrovsky's stick and into the back of the net for the game-tying goal. Center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Olli Maatta assisted on Jokinen's goal, his first of the postseason.
But the Blue Jackets took a 2-1 advantage into the first intermission after they were able to go back in front only 45 seconds later as Letestu scored on a wrist shot with 2:02 to play in the first.
With traffic in front of Fleury's net, an early shot attempt went wide of the cage. Johnson controlled it for the Blue Jackets, and after being unable to jam it home, he rifled a pass to Letestu in the slot for his first-ever playoff goal.
Much like the first period, there was a flurry of goal scoring in the second.
With the Blue Jackets already up 2-1, Johnson went to the penalty box for interfering with Brian Gibbons, who drew both of Columbus' first two penalties. However, left winger Chris Kunitz turned the puck over, and fourth-line center Derek MacKenzie corralled the turnover, sped up ice and fired the shot past Fleury for the short-handed goal 43 seconds into the period.
The Penguins went on to score two power play goals in less than 50 seconds, as Bennett and defenseman Matt Niskanen tallied with the man advantage to even the score at 3-3.
"I don't know about 'slipped away,'" Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We had an opportunity and their power play is very good. You know, they can steal momentum quick and they were able to do that through their power play.
"I wouldn't say 'slipped away' because we had an opportunity and they were on a power play. We score a goal to make it short-handed. They're a tough team. They're a very good offensive team."