Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen scored in a span of 2:13 of the third period to revive the Penguins from yet another two-goal deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
Now up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Penguins got off to a horrible start, but took charge in the final two periods.
"It's not ideal, especially when it's 2-1 and you fall behind (by two goals) again," said captain Sidney Crosby. "Typically, it's not the way you win hockey games. But it showed a lot of character and a lot of patience."
A two-goal lead has been poison so far in the series. Columbus also blew a 3-1 lead in Game 1, then the Penguins returned the favour Saturday night. In each case the opponent scored the final three goals, the Blue Jackets taking their first playoff victory in double-overtime just 48 hours earlier in Pittsburgh. All three games have ended 4-3.
"Anytime a team gets a lead they find a way to give it up," Sutter said.
Game 4 is Wednesday night here.
Down 2-0 early and then 3-1 in the third, the veteran Penguins scored on three consecutive shots.
Coach Dan Bylsma called a timeout after goals by Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson staked the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 lead 3:18 in before a raucous, overflow crowd of 19,148. The Penguins collected themselves and then collected another comeback win.
"We needed to reset," Bylsma said.
The surge began with less than 2 seconds left in the second period when Brooks Orpik rifled a hard wrister past Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, making it 2-1.
Just over a minute into the third period, the Blue Jackets pushed the lead back to two goals. Brandon Dubinsky, who had two assists, spun and fired a backhander that hit the glove of teammate Cam Atkinson and beat a surprised Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury slammed the door after that.
"I took it one shot at a time, tried to keep within the game," he said. "Just make the next save."
His high-powered offence did the rest. The Penguins found their game, dominating with a 41-20 advantage in shots on goal and controlling the pace.
Paul Martin's shot from the point was redirected by Sutter. Just 1:10 later, Stempniak took a short pass from Kris Letang and waded in from the right wing, beating Bobrovsky.
"A lot of guys here have won and been on long runs," said Stempniak. "They kept their belief. I think everybody just fed off of that. We generated a lot of shots and had a lot of opportunities. It was good to just keep going with it."
Then Jokinen redirected Olli Maatta's shot from the point and it glanced in off Columbus defenceman James Wisniewski, thoroughly deflating a crowd waiting to celebrate an historic win.
"We played well," Maatta said. "At the end, it was a couple of bounces."
Columbus' last best chance came with 30 seconds left when Fleury made a blocker save on Ryan Johansen's hard shot.
"They've got a good team over there," said Dubinsky, who had two assists for the Blue Jackets, matching Martin and Beau Bennett of the Penguins. "We just have to find a way to rebound and be resilient. We have been all year long, so I'm confident in this group."
R.J. Umberger, the Columbus forward from Pittsburgh, said it was important for the young Blue Jackets to stay the course. In other words, be patient just like the veteran Penguins.
"It's a long series still," Umberger said. "We can't let that be the turning point."
The Blue Jackets were trying for their first playoff victory at home. They were 0-5 in the post-season until pulling off a stunning 4-3 double-overtime victory Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
Much like after blowing a two-goal lead in Game 1, they'll have to find a way to regroup.
"I don't think it was about stepping off the gas," coach Todd Richards said. "The attitude was good. We made a couple of mistakes and they started skating. That was the difference."
Notes: Columbus LW Nick Foligno (knee) returned after missing the last four games of the regular season and the first two games of the series. D Fedor Tyutin, who left Game 2 with an undisclosed injury, did not dress. ... The Penguins were without Brian Gibbons, who had two goals in the opener, but left in the first period of Game 2. ... Crosby has no goals in his past seven playoff games, and Malkin is scoreless in his past six.
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