For the first two games of the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins were constantly attempting to make the pretty play. But even with a roster loaded with elite talent, the young and hard-working Columbus Blue Jackets shut down their highlight reel style offense.
When Game 3 began, it was obvious that Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma had sent a message throughout the locker room to get pucks on net in any manner possible. It isn’t the way that superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin like to play, but it’s the best way to beat an inexperienced, yet hungry team in the Blue Jackets.
The Penguins found themselves down 3-1 in the third period, but found a way to score three goals in 2:13 to take a 4-3 lead, which they held on to and put themselves up 2-1 in the series.
Throughout the regular season, the Penguins weren’t the kind of team that liked to cycle the puck up high and get heavy traffic in front of the net. But throughout a seven-game series the teams that succeed are the ones that are able to take what their opponents are giving them and make the most of their chances.
Brandon Sutter‘s goal, which brought the Penguins back within one of the lead and silenced the overwhelming crowd at Nationwide Arena, was created by Beau Bennett gathering his own rebound and passing it up to Paul Martin. As soon as Bennett comes around the net with the puck, you can see Jason Megna and Sutter immediately head for the front of the crease to set up shop in front of Sergei Bobrovsky. Instead of cycling the puck back down low, which both Bennett and Martin had the chance to do, Martin sent a weak slap shot through traffic toward the net. Sutter got a piece of it and the Penguins were back in it.
After Lee Stempniak made it a 3-3 game, Jussi Jokinen‘s game-winning goal almost mirrored that of Sutter’s. This time, it was Malkin who got the puck up top to a defenseman instead of trying to attack the net, which is a move he loves to utilize. Olli Maatta received the pass from Malkin and fired it toward Bobrovsky without hesitating. Jokinen had set the screen in the high slot and was credited with the goal.
If the Penguins want to continue to be successful against the Blue Jackets, they are going to have to continue the simplistic nature they showed in the third period of Game 3. Their finesse style just doesn’t match up with Columbus, which is why their power play has struggled at times throughout the series (they were 0-for-6 with the man advantage in Game 3).
It took a while to realize it, but the Penguins have finally found what it’s going to take to win the series. After their Game 3 victory, the Penguins are now 7-0-1 against the Blue Jackets this season.