Blue Jackets rise up with special teams

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Short-handed goals have a way of turning games around. Only time will tell if the one Matt Calvert scored Saturday night will be a series-changing goal.

Calvert made sure his momentum-shifting goal meant something when he pounded a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury early in the second overtime to send this opening-round series back to Columbus knotted at 1-1.

"It's unbelievable," Calvert said afterward. "Every year, I watched the NHL playoffs I dreamed of being the hero in overtime."

But make no mistake about it, the biggest goal was the shorthanded one Calvert scored with 12:29 remaining in the second period when the Penguins held what seemed a comfortable two-goal lead.

The Blue Jackets trailed, 3-1 and they found themselves on the penalty kill, but the Penguins got caught with only one defenseman back, and Calvert converted a two-on-one to get his team back in the game.

"You could kind of tell we were starting to get momentum earlier in that penalty kill," Columbus forward Mark Letestu said.

"We had a couple of chances before that. Matty, like he has done all season, came up with a big play. It got us believing again."

It was one of several odd-man chances for the Blue Jackets against the Penguins power-play unit. Calvert said he and his teammates want to take advantage of the Penguins' aggressiveness in those situations.

"They're a good power-play team and they take a lot of chances," Calvert said. "If we pick off a pass, we want to take advantage of that."

Columbus coach Todd Richards said the short-handed goal was the turning point.

"They were very good in the first," Richards said. "That was something I expected. They were playing at a different level than us.

"The short-handed goal I thought was the difference in the game. It gave hope to our guys. You could feel it on the bench.

"From that point on I thought we played a very strong game."

The Blue Jackets still trailed, 3-2, late in the third period.

The Penguins took consecutive penalties, and defenseman Jack Johnson sent the game to overtime with 6:01 remaining after Kris Letang took a penalty.

This game was won on special teams. In addition to scoring the shorthanded goal, the Blue Jackets were 2 for 6 on the power play.

The Penguins, by contrast, were 1 for 8 on the power play and failed to capitalize on a power play that carried over into the second overtime.

Just seconds after the Blue Jackets killed off that penalty, Calvert found himself alone in front of the net with three whacks at the puck. His final whack found the back of the net.

"We never give up on pucks," Calvert said. "We get some greasy goals.

"We were rewarded for our hard work."

The series shifts to Columbus for Game 3 Monday night where the Blue Jackets will ride the momentum in front of a home crowd that will be witnessing a Stanley Cup playoff game for the first time in the past four years.

The Blue Jackets, however, were careful not to make too much of the first playoff win in franchise history.

"I'm sure a lot of people in Columbus are celebrating, but we want four [victories]," Letestu said.

"We want a playoff series. But it is a good feeling to come out of here with a split."

The Penguins owned the top power play during the regular season and also had one of the top penalty-killing units, but they Blue Jackets got their desired split because of their special teams.

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.


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