Game Three of the First Round Stanley Cup playoff series pitted the talented Metropolitan Division-winning Pittsburgh Penguins against the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets, riding off of the heels of a record-breaking season on many fronts, including total points (108) and victories, including a near-NHL-record 16-game winning streak thus earning them the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division’s 3rd best overall record.
The Pens (Penguins) dominated the first two games of the series, winning 3-1 in Game One and 4-1 in Game Two, both games of which were played at their home venue, PPG Paints Arena (formerly Consol Energy Center). The Blue Jackets were ailed by an inability to score, something that plagued them in the latter part of the regular season as well as a few less than stellar performances by leading Vezina candidate (NHL’s best goaltender) Sergei Bobrovsky, including getting caught behind the net while clearing a puck then having it stolen from him for the first goal of the game and a definite momentum-shift for the rest of Game Two.
The Blue Jackets were hoping to feed off of a raucous home crowd at Nationwide Arena and to gain a foothold on the series for Game Three. They came out firing, scoring a goal just 11 seconds into the contest, with Cam Atkinson taking a feed from Brandon Dubinsky then blasting it by Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 1-0 Blue Jackets. However, just over three minutes later, the Penguins answered with a goal from forward Jake Guentzel to knot the score at 1-1. Then, less than 2 minutes later, Atkinson scored again on a steal of a Penguins pass and again beat Fleury, unassisted, to put the Blue Jackets up, 2-1. Then Blue Jackets rookie Zack Werenski blasted a shot from the point and the Blue Jackets extended their lead, 3-1 to end a fast and furious first period of play.
The Penguins answered with a goal by Bryan Rust to tighten the score, 3-2 and began controlling the pace of play throughout the second period. Rust scored again during a sequence when Werenski was hit in the face with a shot from the point but the play was not blown dead as, according to the NHL rule that the play cannot be blown dead until the team with the downed player secures the puck to stop play. The second period ended with the score knotted at 3-3. The Penguins second period dominance extended to shots on goal as they easily out-shot the Blue Jackets, 19-8.
The Pens took the lead on a power-play goal by Guentzel as Brandon Dubinsky was called for a penalty for cross-checking and the Penguins were up, 4-3; however, Dubinsky atoned for his penalty by blasting a rebound past Fleury to knot the score at 4-4 late in the third period and the game ended in a tie in regulation so both teams went to overtime/sudden death.
In overtime, Jake Guentzel scored his third goal of the game, beating Bobrovsky with 6:50 left in the first overtime to win the game for the Penguins. The Penguins out-shot the Blue Jackets for the contest, 47-37.
With the victory, the Penguins are up, three games to none and have a stranglehold on the series. With their backs to the wall, the Blue Jackets will hope to stave off elimination in Game Four, slated for Tuesday at 7:30 P.M. in Nationwide Arena.