The truly disturbing aspect of Blue Jackets 4, Penguins 3 in double-overtime from the Penguins’ perspective is they found a way to lose a game they were absolutely dominating.
“We didn’t give them anything,” defenseman Matt Niskanen assessed of the first 20-plus minutes. “They didn’t have a sniff in the hockey game for the majority of that first period. Kind of shot ourselves in the foot and let them back into it.
“Sometimes you’re going to lose momentum; those things are going to happen. But I think today was a little bit preventable.”
You wound hope so.
And yet once things spun out of control the Penguins weren’t able to get their legs back under them until overtime.
Things spun far enough out of control that the Penguins were actually fortunate to make it to overtime in the first place.
The short-handed goal scored by Matt Calvert at 7:31 of the second period was an obvious momentum-changing event.
But allowing a second short-handed goal in as many games doesn’t excuse or forgive the Penguins coming unglued, almost to a man, thereafter.
The shorty brought the Blue Jackets back to within a goal at 3-2, but there was still a lot of hockey left to be played. The Penguins needed only to exhale and resume playing it the way they had for the vast majority of the preceding minutes.
Instead, they succumbed to an avalanche of mistakes and misplays, each seemingly making it more difficult for them to stop the downward spiral than the last.
It was as if the Blue Jackets were the experienced playoff team and the Penguins were the party-crashing wannabes, the overwhelming underdog in the series.
“It was a great start, everything we didn’t do in Game 1,” winger Lee Stempniak said of a first period that saw the Penguins outshoot the Blue Jackets, 15-4, and outscore them, 3-1. “We were talking about coming out and being better and using our speed and skating and it was a great start.
“It’s a shame to waste an effort like that.”
Despite the collective ineptitude that took root the Penguins still had a chance to overcome the wasting of that dazzling first period, one that Dan Blysma characterized as “one of our better periods.”
Stempniak had what looked like the game-winning goal on his stick when he got to a Sidney Crosby rebound in the slot with just under four minutes left in the first OT.
Somehow, Sergei Bobrovsky got his blocker on it.
“I knew I had a good chance,” Stempniak said. “I was sorta thinking about taking it on my backhand but I thought I was getting closed off. He made a nice save.
“I’d have liked to put that in.”
The truly disturbing part from the Penguins’ perspective is they’d still have been scratching their heads and wondering what the hell had just happened even if he had.