By Mike Majeski
A remarkable pattern has developed in the first-round series between the Blue Jackets and the Penguins. In all four games, both teams have twice held 3-1 leads — Columbus in Games 1 and 3; Pittsburgh in Games 2 and 4 — only to end up losing 4-3. Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky tied Game 4 with 24 seconds left in regulation and Nick Foligno delivered the winning goal 2:49 into overtime as the Penguins saw their 3-0 first-period advantage turn into a disheartening defeat on Wednesday night. A series they were supposed to win easily is suddenly knotted at two games apiece.
It was shades of last year when the Stanley Cup hopeful Penguins had all kinds of trouble putting the underdog New York Islanders away.
For all its talent, Pittsburgh has underachieved in recent postseasons and is now in danger of making its third first-round exit in the last four years. On Wednesday night, many of the hallmarks of the Penguins’ past playoff failures were present: the shaky goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury; the inconsistency of their defensemen; and the lack of production from stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who combined for just one assist. There is greatness on this roster, but this is not a great team. At this point, it seems unlikely that the Penguins can win the Stanley Cup even if they survive the first round.
A few observations from an enervating Game 4: