PITTSBURGH – Matt Calvert’s first career playoff goal gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a badly needed boost. His second ended 4,493 days of futility for a franchise that is quickly morphing from laughingstock to something considerably more potent.
Calvert banged his own rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned their first Stanley Cup playoff win with a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post. His first shot went into the goaltender’s right pad. He roofed his second into the top of the net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.
Game 3 is Monday in Columbus.
“You always dream about being the hero in overtime,” Calvert said. “We battled for it and it didn’t come easy. We were down a couple goals at different times. The penalty kill was great when it had to be and it’s just a great feeling right now.”
The Blue Jackets trailed 3-1 after the first period, but Calvert’s short-handed goal 7:31 into the second changed the game completely.
“It gave hope to our guys,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “It was 3-1 at the time and we scored to make it 3-2. You could feel it on the bench. After that I felt we played a very strong game.”
Looked like it.
Jack Johnson eventually tied it with 6:01 left in regulation. Ryan Johansen also scored the first playoff goal of his career for Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky overcame a shaky start to finish with 39 saves.
Brian Gibbons scored twice and Matt Niskanen added his second goal of the playoffs, but Pittsburgh was outplayed for much of the final three-plus periods. Fleury made 41 stops but was helpless on the game-winner.
“We have to be better,” said Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby, who had two assists but was held without a goal for the second straight game. “That’s really, I think, the bottom line. Right on through, whether it’s special teams or 5-on-5 we have to be better.”
The Penguins have dropped four straight home overtime playoff games and blew a chance to take a 2-0 series lead when they failed to bury the Blue Jackets early on. Pittsburgh, the best power-play team in the NHL during the regular season, went just 1-for-8 with the man advantage, including 0-for-2 in overtime. Even worse, Columbus has two short-handed goals in as many games.
Both teams traded quality chances in the first overtime. Bobrovsky made an excellent blocker save on Crosby racing down the right wing and got a piece of Lee Stempniak’s rebound. Fleury stuffed R.J. Umberger from point-blank range earlier in the period.
There was no back-and-forth in the second extra session. Brandon Dubinsky started the winning play by finding Atkinson in front and Pittsburgh’s defense offered little resistance until the puck was on Calvert’s stick for the winner.
“We stuck with it and we just kept playing and kept going and we got a split in Pittsburgh and that’s what we wanted,” Calvert said.
Blues 4, Blackhawks 3 (OT)
In St. Louis, defenseman Barret Jackman scored on a drive through traffic, giving the Blues their second straight 4-3 overtime victory over the Blackhawks for a 2-0 series lead against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
St. Louis rallied after Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook received a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for a vicious elbow to the head on Blues captain David Backes, who had to be helped off the ice, went straight to the locker room and did not return for the extra period.
Vladimir Tarasenko forced overtime with his second goal of the series, beating Corey Crawford with a wrist shot that banged off the right post and in with 6.4 seconds to go. Kevin Shattenkirk had a goal and two assists for the Blues.
Duncan Keith, Seabrook and Michael Rozsival scored in a span of five shots to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 early in the third. But Seabrook’s penalty proved costly, and he could be suspended for Game 3 in Chicago on Monday night.
Avalanche 4, Wild 2
In Denver, Gabriel Landeskog scored twice and Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots, lifting the Avalanche to a 2-0 series lead.
The Wild were unable to contain the quickness of teenager Nathan MacKinnon, who had a goal and three assists. Paul Stastny, the star of Game 1, also had a goal and three assists. His empty-netter sealed the win after Marco Scandella made it a one-goal game with 1:19 remaining. Charlie Coyle also scored early for the Wild.
Game 3 is Monday in Minnesota.
Landeskog’s second goal of the game gave Colorado a 3-1 lead with 8:01 remaining in the second and led the Wild to pull erratic starter Ilya Bryzgalov. Backup Darcy Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced.