-One of the good things about covering a playoff series at home and on the road is getting to know the other team a little bit better. During a regular season, you pretty much only get to interview another team's players at the morning skate and after the game and usually, the interviews are limited to immediate concerns involving that night's game. Occasionally, a team will come in a day early and you can talk to them a day before a game but those are rare. During a playoff series, you interact with these players upwards of two weeks. You find out who are the good and not-so-good quotes on that team.
-Last postseason, for a variety of reasons, we enjoyed found defensemen on the other teams to be good quotes. For the Islanders, it was Travis Hamonic. For the Senators, it was Marc Methot. And for the Bruins, it was Andrew Ference. This year, it has clearly been Jack Johnson.
-Johnson has caused a bit of a stir with comments such as saying about how the Penguins were nothing special and his comment about how the Penguins haven't been covering him on his goals. Some have seen it as trash talk or bulletin board material. In every instance we've talked with Johnson, he hasn't come off someone offering inflammatory comments for the sake of shock value. He strikes us as a pretty mellow matter-of-fact kind of guy.
-The Calder Trophy finalists were named today. Forward Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche as well as Lightning forwards Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson are three top vote getters. Olli Maatta was not one of them. It's pretty simple to see why. Maatta's a defenseman and generally speaking, defensemen don't put up big numbers which voters usually look at. Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm had a very solid season as well and could have merited consideration. Last season, Jonas Brodin had a fantastic season for the Wild but didn't get a sniff at the award.
-The only way defensemen really ever get consideration is if it is a lean year for forwards. Unfortunately for Olli Maatta, he made his NHL debut in a season when a player of MacKinnon's stature started his career as well.
-It will be interesting to see how quickly the lines get shifted around tonight for the Penguins. We can't imagine the Blue Jackets will have the same intensity to start this game as they did in Game 3. The crowd at Nationwide will be bonkers tonight once again but it won't quite be at the same level as it was for Game 3. It never will be. That was a pretty special crowd. Even if it's one level down, it's still not going to be the same as what went on in this building Monday. The Blue Jackets won't have quite the same jump and that only benefits the Penguins.
-The Penguins worked the same power-play unite of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin today. We're not sure if any sort of tactical changes to that units approach were made. Regardless, the Penguins need it to change in terms of success. Life will be a lot easier with a successful power play.
-We're not sure how long it will be utilized, but the third line of Beau Bennett, Brandon Sutter and Jayson Megna which worked out this morning is a bit intriguing.
-Rob Scuderi only got 13:44: of ice time in Game 3 and coincidentally, that was his best game of the series. Part of that was dictated by the Penguins having a ton of power plays early in the game as well as an early deficit. Part of that was probably dictated by his level of play which hasn't been good much of the series.
-Fedor Tyutin could have helped the Blue Jackets defend their lead in Game 3. He is their Paul Martin. He might not put up huge numbers but he has a calming presence where he can settle things down for his teammates and make the right play in most situations.
-A few sights. The barn:
-We really enjoy the arena around the Arena. Columbus is a typical midwest city in that it's a pretty generic grid for how the city is laid out and everything is pretty spread out. There is plenty of green space in this city as well. With most of the trees finally blooming, it's a pretty sight:
-Near the front of Nationwide Arena, there is this quaint walkway lined with bars, restaurants and living spaces:
-Someday soon, hopefully Fifth Avenue and the Civic Arena site can blossom like this.
-Fans were lined up this morning for gameday ticket sales:
-There are a few 412ers here. Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby:
-And Miroslav Satan:
-The always rare Luke Richardson/Marc Denis combination:
-And we always have room in our hearts for a Geoff Sanderson fan:
-The signs being distributed tonight are double-sided:
-Fans entering the barn:
-The goal cannon:
-Like at Consol Energy Center, there is a display for a lot of the local youth team jerseys:
-There is a pretty neat marker in the main concourse nothing how far away center ice is:
-There are a few more Penguins fans on hand tonight than in comparison to Game 3 but it's still nothing like a regular season game where tons of Penguins fans show up. Kris Letang:
-There are two Ron Tugnutt fans on hand tonight:
-Jersey of the Night: Mark Letestu Penguins:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Lee Stempniak, Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Chris Conner, Deryk Engelland, Brian Gibbons, Marcel Goc, Taylor Pyatt and Tomas Vokoun.
-The Blue Jackets' starters are Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Brandon Dubinsky, Jack Johnson, David Savard and Sergei Bobrovsky.
-Their scratches are Jared Boll, Matt Frattin, Nathan Horton, Ryan Murray, Jeremy Smith, Corey Tropp and Fedor Tyutin.
-Murray's scratch contradicts head coach Todd Richards claim this morning he would have the same lineup. Nick Schultz will replace him.
-The national anthem:
19:50: Almost immediately, "C-B-J!" chants rain down.
19:25: Recovering a puck dumped into his own left wing corner, Scuderi absorbs a solid hit into the boards by Dubinsky.
18:39: A wrister by Nikita Nikitin is wide of the net.
17:34: Glass chucks a wrister on net from the left wing. Bobrovsky snags it.
17:23: Battling for a puck in the Columbus' left wing corner, Crosby is walloped to the ice by his friend Johnson.
17:11: A wrister by Crosby from the slot is deflected out of play by Savard.
15:58: Taking a pass at his own right point, Bennett is smacked pretty good by Dalton Prout.
15:26: Letang throws Derek MacKenzie with a big hit on the Penguins' left wing wall.
15:19: A backhander by Stempniak from the left circle is kicked out by Bobrovsky's left skate.
14:02: Ryan Johansen snaps off a wrister from the right wing. Fleury kicks it out. Jenner follows up on the rebound and crashes into Fleury dislodging the net. A scrum breaks out. Officials break it up. Jussi Jokinen is called for hooking. He was backchecking Jenner on the play and tied him up. Sutter, Craig Adams, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik take the ice.
13:51: Craig Adams. Goal scorer. After James Wisniewski fails to keep a puck in at the left point, Sutter jumps on and races through the neutral zone. He draws in two defenders and backhands a pass to Adams on the right wing. Adams grips and rips a wrister by Bobrovsky's blocker on the far side. What a shot from an unlikely source. Give credit to Sutter for setting up the chance as well. Sutter and Martin get assists. Penguins 1-0.
12:50: Artem Anisimov rips a wrister form the right circle wide to the far side.
12:02: Jokinen's minor is killed. That was a strong kill for the Penguins.
12:13: David Savard chops a slapper from the center point which is blocked by the great Joe Vitale.
12:08: Calvert booms a slapper from the high slot over the cage.
11:38: Crosby weaves his way into the offensive zone and rips a shot only to have his stick break and the puck deflected out of play.
9:27: Battling for a puck in the Penguins' right wing corner, MacKenzie slams Scuderi into the boards. That's two minutes for roughing. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Martin and Niskanne take the ice.
9:23: The Penguins waste little time with the power play. Crosby wins the faceoff in the left circle to Martin at the left point. Martin slides a pass to Niskanen at the right point. Niskanen winds up and chops a slapper at the net. Kunitz in front and appears to deflect it behind Bobrovsky. Kunitz gets credit for the score. Niskanen and Martin get assists. Penguins 2-0.
8:50: The levy has broken. Taking a pass from Malkin in the slot, Jokinen fumbles the puck for a moment but recovers it and taps a backhanded pass to Neal in the right circle. In one motion, Neal swipes a one-timer behind Bobrovsky and into the twine. The Blue Jackets call a timeout to get organized. Jokinen and Neal get assists. A solid showing of Penguins fans have had plenty to cheer about already. Penguins 3-0.
7:30: Defiantly, Blue Jackets fans continue to chant "C-B-J!"
6:58: Wisniewski chucks a wrister from the right point hoping for a re-direction. MacKenzie is there but sends the puck wide.
6:10: Maatta tries to play a puck out of midair from his own blue line but loses it. Anisimov pressures him and steals the puck. As Maatta falls, play is blow dead and Anisimov is called for holding? What an awful call. Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, Martin and Niskanen take the ice.
6:01: Niskanen chops a slapper from the right point. It hits a stick and deflects out of play.
5:34: Malkin tries to set up Martin with a version of the "Whitney Play" but Martin taps a puck from the left cicle wide of the cage on the near side.
5:12: More penalties. as Kunitz controls the puck in the left wing corner and is slashed by Savard. Kunitz falls to his knees. Savard is sent off for slashing while Kunitz gets an embellishment minor. They are offsetting minors and play will remain five on four.
4:57: A wrister by Letestu from the left circle is fought off by Fleury.
4:45: The Blue Jacket get one back. Neal is called for interference against Wisniewski in the Columbus left wing corner. We'll see four-on-four play for 35 seconds.
4:10: Anisimov's minor is killed. The Blue Jackets will have 1:25 of a power play time
3:55: Anismov rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury snags it and swats the puck away with his stick.
3:21: The Blue Jackets cash in. Taking a pass from Wisnieski in the high slot, Letesut rips a wrister. It hits off Jenner aboe the blue pain and hops over Fleury. The Blue Jackets needed his baldy. It bring some ive back to the building and give the Blue Jackets some hope. The dreaded 3-1 lead is in place. Letestu and Wisniewski get assists. Fire Ray Shero. The cannon goes off. Penguins 3-1.
1:00: Kunitz gets thumped pretty good by Johnson at the Columbus blue line in front of the Blue Jackets bench.
0:41: Calvert chops a slapper from the right point. Fleury kicks it out despite traffic.
0:14: Umberger lifts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury knocks it dead and smother.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 1.
-That was ... interesting. Actually, it was par for the course for how this series has gone. One team jumped out to a roaring start while the other salvaged something late. This game is far from over.
-Evgeni Malkin has some hop in his step tonight. He's skating with power and bulling his way through defenders.
-The Blue Jackets are doing a wonderful job of getting bodies to the Penguins' net. Fleury has someone in a blue jersey in his grill on almost every shot.
-The Blue Jackets lead in shots on net, 14-11.
-Attempted shots are even, 20-20.
-Johnson leads the game with 9:50 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 8:34.
-The Blue Jackets have a 13-12 lead in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Crosby is 7 for 7 (100 percent).
-Anisimov is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Martin, Johnson and Savard each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:42: Kunitz rattles Savard with a solid hit in the Blue Jackets' left wing corner.
19:34: Crosby lifts a wrister from the high slot. Bobrovsky eats it up.
19:13: A wrister by Johansen from the left circle is blocked out of play by Martin.
17:50: Savard tries to carry a puck through the neutral zone and is thumped down by Kunitz.
17:11: Nikitin chops a shot from center point. It gets deflected out of play.
16:47: Taking a drop pass at the right half wall, Wisniewski steps up and pounds a one-timer on net. Fleury kicks it out.
16:37: Neal snaps off a low wrister from the left circle. Bobrovsky eats it up.
15:09: In tight in the left circle Johnson rips a wrister which Fleury fights off.
14:38: Dubinsky collects a loose puck above the right circle and chucks a wrister on net. Fleury fights it off.
13:35: Nikitin chops a slapper from the left point wide on the near side.
13:23: Wisniewski winds up with a big slapper from the center point and lets loose. Malkin leans down to block it. Oof.
12:50: Savard chucks a wrister from the right point. Fleury denies it despite traffic.
11:18: Letang chops a slapper from the right point. It hits a body and Bobrovsky snags it. Prout is called for high sticking Bennett. Niskanen, Martin, Malkin, Crosby and Kunitz take the ice.
10:47: Malkin feeds a pass from the right circle to the slot. Crosby streaks through the slot and taps it wide.
9:55: Niskanen chops a slapper from the right half wall which is blocked.
9:24: Short-handed, Nikitin chucks a wrister from the left point. Fleury snags it.
9:18: Prout's minor is killed. The Penguins looked pretty inept with that chance.
8:07: The Blue Jackets will get another power play as Stempniak is called for high sticking Schultz in front of the Penguins' penalty box. He drew some blood so it's a double minor. Martin, Orpik, Sutter and Adams take the ice for a big penalty kill.
7:17: Off a turnoverr by Letang, Johnson chops a one-timer off the right half wall. Fleury kicks it out.
6:45: Kunitz gets a shift on the penalty kill. He tries to push the puck into the offensive zone and is stood up by Wisniewski. Kunitz slams him to the ice but loses the puck.
6:24: The hole gets deeper for the penguins as Sutter is called for delay of game after playing a puck of play from his own zone. The Penguins protest vehemently but no avail. The Blue Jackets will have a two man advantage for a full two minutes. Oof. Adams, Glass and Orpik take the ice.
6:10: A one-timer by Johanson from the left circle is fought off by Fleury
5:57: Wisniewski blows a one-timer from the high slot wide of the cage.
5:40: The Blue Jackets cash in. Dubinsky control a puck to the right of the cage down low. He is able to sneak a pass by a kneeling Orpik into the crease. Anismov gets a stick on the puck then Johansen is able to tuck it into the cage. The Blue Jackets almost couldn't help but score there. They will have 1:35 remaining on a one-man advantage. Anisimov and Dubinsky get assists. The cannon goes off. Penguins 3-2.
4:58: Nikitin crnks two big shot from the point wide of the cage.
4:45: A writer by Jenner from the left circle is denied.
4:26: Nikitin rips a wrister form the high slot. Fleury fights it off.
3:09: A wrister by Johasen form the slot is wide of the cage.
2:23: After an offensive zone turnover by Malkin, Cavlert gets a chance from the left wing off a three-on-two. He rips a wrister which Fleury fights off.
2:00: Another penalty for the Penguins. Niskanen is called for tripping Dubinsky in the Penguins' zone. Crosby, Adams, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
1:50: Short-handed, Crosby lifts a wrister from the right circle. Bobrovsky eats it up.
0:12: Wisniewski chops a shot from the high slot wide of the cage.
0:01: Atkinson has a chance to the right of the cage in tight but fans on the shot. Argh. That was close.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 2.
-The Penguins hung on for dear life for that period. The Blue jackets had the majority of puck possession and controlled things in the Penguins' zone.
-Fleury bailed the Penguins out a few times there. He's been sharp tonight.
-Bobrovsky wasn't nearly as shaky there as he was in the first period. He has leveled off.
-Crosby's decisions with the puck continue to be puzzling.
-Nikitin has been pressed into a bigger role with the absences of Murray and Tyutin. As a result, he's shooting everything. He's a bit of a wild shot though. Not many are getting on net.
-The Blue Jackets lead in shots on net, 32-17.
-The Penguins have a 55-30 lead in attempted shots.
-Wisniewski leads the game with seven shots.
-Kunitz leads the Penguins with four shots.
-The Penguins have a 25-20 lead in faceoffs (56 percent).
-Crosby is 12 for 13 (92 percent).
-Johansen is 6 for 10 (60 percent).
-Scuderi, Martin and Savard each lead the game with three shots.
19:50: Off a turnover by Letang from behind his own net, Dubinsky chucks a wrister on net from the right circle. Fleury eats it up.
17:36: Bennett hustles after a puck in at the red line and is stood up by Prout who drops him on his backside HARD. Oof.
16:46: Calvert fires a spinning one-time from the high slot. It changes direction once or twice before hitting Fleury's left leg.
16:40: Johnson pounds a slapper from the left point. It hits something and Fleury lunges out to smother it.
15:01: Jokinen snaps off a wrister from deep on the right wing. Bobrovsky kicks it out.