Down by two goals and having registered only four shots against 15 from the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Columbus Blue Jackets were well on their way to taking a game two loss in the Consol Energy Center in their first round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Saturday night.
However, that is when the Blue Jackets banded together and mounted a comeback that left winger Matt Calvert capped off with a goal 1:10 into the second overtime in their 4-3 victory and have evened up the series, 1-1, heading into tonight's game three at Nationwide Arena.
"It's kind of been our story all year," left winger R.J. Umberger said. "We've been a resilient group, never quit, battled and battled. Three to one is not a great scenario, but I think a lot of teams would have been done. We just kept fighting, found ways. The power play did a great job of getting us back into it and the short-handed goal was huge."
Center Mark Letestu added, "The focus was to chip away, and we accomplished that and got another big goal in the fifth.
"They came hard. That's as hard as they've come to start, and we expected it, especially, the way they started last game. The idea in here was to win a period at a time, chip away, just throw some pucks there, and we got big goals and big moments from guys. Guys stepped up and I couldn't be more proud of the way the guys battled. To get rewarded for the battle is more important than anything."
The Blue Jackets were down by two goals less than five minutes into Saturday's game, as Pittsburgh center Brian Gibbons tallied scores at the 3:30 and 4:24 marks of the first period.
Gibbons controlled a rebound off a Matt Niskanen shot and tipped it past Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the first score of the night. Then, less than a minute later, Gibbons scored a short-handed goal when he wristed a shot into the back of Bobrovsky's net.
Then, Niskanen slapped a shot home at the 17:52 mark of the first period as an answer to Ryan Johansen's power play goal.
"They were very good in the first," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "That's something I expected. They came out, they played hard, they played fast. At that moment, they were playing at a different level than us."
Center Brandon Dubinsky added, "It was more of a playoff-type atmosphere in the first period, and I thought we were on our heels. I thought we settled down and we started going after them. We talked about it. We know we can play with these guys. We've just got to continue to stick with it. We did that and we found a way to tie the game and win in overtime."
Despite Bobrovsky allowing three goals on 15 shots in the first period, Richards said "there was no thought, at all about" making a change in net.
"You know what, I try not to talk to the goaltenders," Richards said. "That's one position I try to stay away from. I didn't think he was flustered. He didn't look flustered. There was traffic. They did a very good job.
"They were playing on a different level than we were in the first. I think some of it was feeding off the crowd. They did a very good job in their neutral zone of creating some speed and putting pressure on us. I didn't look at Bob as flustered."
It was during that first intermission that the Blue Jackets realized there was still a lot of hockey left to play.
And when Calvert tallied a short-handed goal to make it 3-2 in the second period, the tide changed in favor of the Blue Jackets.
"The short-handed goal in the second period, I thought, was the difference maker," Richards said. "I think it gave hope to our guys. It was 3-1 at the time, and we make it 3-2 and you could feel it on the bench. From that moment on, I thought we played a very strong game."
Dubinsky added, "We faced adversity all season long. A lot of people counted us out a lot of times. We just continue to believe in here. We believe that we have a good thing in here, a good group and a resilient group. We talked about that after game one, but it's a long series.
"This is only game two and for guys that have been through this before, they understand that it's not going to get easier. It's going to get tougher and we're looking forward to the challenge. We're looking forward to going home and doing it."