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Pens rally from 2-goal deficit, beat Blue Jackets
Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Brandon Sutter scored the game winner 8:18 into the third period, as the Pittsburgh Penguins potted three unanswered goals en route to a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series from CONSOL Energy Center.
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.
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 this best-of-seven set.
"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, while Derek MacKenzie and Mark Letestu tallied a goal apiece for the Blue Jackets, who qualified for the postseason for just the second time in franchise history, with the other appearance ending in a four-game sweep at the hands of Detroit in 2009.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots in the setback.
Game 2 of this series is scheduled for Saturday in Pittsburgh.
"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."
MacKenzie, who was making his first career postseason appearance, scored shorthanded 43 seconds into the second after converting a breakaway off a Kris Letang turnover, but Pittsburgh's power-play unit took over from there.
With Columbus' Blake Comeau still serving a cross-checking minor that occurred late in the first, the Penguins worked the disc around the point in the Blue Jackets' end before Niskanen fired a shot from above the right circle that tipped off Bennett's stick in the slot and sailed past Bobrovsky at 1:34.
Johnson was whistled for interference just 35 seconds later, and after Pittsburgh won the ensuing offensive zone faceoff, Niskanen ripped a wrister from the left faceoff dot that snuck through a defender's legs, and then through Bobrovsky's five-hole, to make it 3-3 at 2:19.
Bobrovsky helped the Blue Jackets kill off a pair of power plays later in the second to send the teams into the third locked at 3-3, but the Penguins broke the deadlock just over eight minutes into the final frame after Paul Martin disrupted a Columbus rush near the Pittsburgh blue line.
Martin's play sparked a 2-on-1 rush the other way that saw Bennett feed the disc ahead to Sutter, who skated down the right side and into the circle before slipping a wrister under Bobrovsky's right arm for the deciding goal.
"You're always looking for shot or pass and I decided to shoot it and it went in," Sutter said of his game-winner. "It's a good feeling."
Early on, Johnson buried a backhander from in front off a nice feed from Brandon Dubinsky to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead 6:20 into the game, but Jokinen beat Bobrovsky blocker-side from the slot following a slick dish from Malkin to pull Pittsburgh even at 17:13.
However, Pittsburgh's Rob Scuderi was sent off for interference just 32 seconds later and Columbus capitalized early in the ensuing man-advantage to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
After Columbus won the ensuing offensive zone faceoff, Johnson tried to jam one home from the low right side, but the disc squirted into the slot and landed on the stick of Letestu, who lifted the puck over Fleury's glove for a 2-1 lead at 17:58.
MacKenzie became the eighth player in NHL history and first since Pittsburgh's Brad Werenka on April 23, 1998 to score shorthanded in his first career playoff game ... Columbus has lost seven straight overall against Pittsburgh ... Martin posted two assists for Pittsburgh ... Pittsburgh finished 2-for-3 on the power play, while Columbus went 1-for-4 ... The Penguins outscored the Blue Jackets 16-7 during the regular season.
04/16 23:54:31 ET