Blue Jackets rally again as odd pattern continues

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- One game, two, maybe three, it's a quirk.

Four games, it's a pattern.

It has happened each game of the Penguins' first-round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets -- a team gets a 3-1 lead, then ends up losing, 4-3.

Each team has been on each side of that formula twice, leaving the series tied, 2-2, with Game 5 set for Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.

In Game 4 Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena, the Penguins were on the good end early. They not only led, 3-1, but earlier were up, 3-0. The Blue Jackets, true to the pattern, came back, getting a tying goal in the final minute of regulation and winning it on Nick Foligno's overtime goal.

For a 4-3 final score, of course.

"I don't know if one team gets down and they push harder and the other team doesn't respond to it ... I truly don't know," Columbus coach Todd Richards said.

The answer can't be to avoid a 3-1 lead, Penguins forward Craig Adams said.

"I don't want to sit here and say we don't want to get up, 3-1," Adams said.

"Obviously, that's not the case. You want to stay aggressive. You want to stay on your toes. You don't need to take any chances when you've got a lead.

"At the same time, you can't sit back. That tends to give you more problems than if you just stick with your game. We did that a bit [Wednesday], especially in the second period. We were in our end way too much. We still want to get a lead."

Adams helped the Penguins do that with a short-handed goal to open the scoring.

Chris Kunitz and James Neal pushed it to 3-0 before the end of the first period.

In the second, Columbus got power-play goals from Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen (his was on a five-on-three situation) as the Penguins took eight minutes of penalties that period.

"It's tough. They're right back in it with a lot of time left," said Penguins center Sidney Crosby.

"Not to say that it shouldn't happen, but there's definitely some opportunities there for them to get back in the game.

"We expected them to be desperate. We weren't able to elevate our play in the second half of the game. We have to be better."

That has happened every game -- the team that falls behind, 3-1, turns on the burners.

"I think that stems from us being a little less aggressive than we need to be," said Penguins winger Lee Stempniak.

"We're skating. We're all over them. And then for one reason or another we stepped back and let them to take the play to us."

And the formula kicked in again.

In Game 1, Columbus took a 3-1 lead with an even-strength, a power-play and a short-handed goal. The Penguins responded with three unanswered goals.

In Game 2, The Penguins took a 3-1 lead on an even-strength, a power-play and a short-handed goal. The Blue Jackets came back to win in double overtime.

Game 3 shifted from Consol Energy Center to Nationwide Arena, but the theme remained largely the same.

Columbus scored twice in the game's first 3:18 and eventually took a 3-1 lead, although the Blue Jackets' three goals all came at even strength. The Penguins, of course, came back to win.

"I wish I knew the answer -- we wouldn't have given up a lead [Wednesday]," Stempniak said. "We were in control of the game, 3-0. Once they got down, they didn't have anything to lose. They really skated and pushed the pace of play, and we didn't respond."

Richards knows the feeling, in both cases.

When his team is on the losing side of 3-1, he tells his players, "Work to get one [goal]. Simple as that.

"We've had good things happen where the guys have proven some resiliency, but we've also had some things where were put ourselves down. One thing I'd like to correct is the part where we put ourselves down."

The Blue Jackets overcame that in Game 4.

Whether 3-1 shows up again in the series remains to be seen.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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