- Scott Burnside, NHL
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PITTSBURGH -- Changing the course of history is hard. Sometimes it takes a long time. And sometimes it feels like history is thumbing its nose at you, laughing behind your back.
But when it happens, when history is re-written, when it is made, it sure is sweet.
And the Jackets didn't just even this Eastern Conference quarterfinal at one game apiece; they won the hard way, climbing out of a 3-1 deficit and killing off seven of eight Pittsburgh power plays, including two in overtime.
"I think that the confidence of a young team is getting built from little successes that you have along the way. This was a big step for us. Now we just got to enjoy it a little bit and put it behind us. Go for the next one," Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen told ESPN.com after Matt Calvert carved a place in Blue Jackets lore by slapping home his own rebound just 1:10 into the second overtime period.
The winner came just 37 seconds after the Blue Jackets killed off the final 33 seconds of Blake Comeau's third minor penalty of the evening.
"That's what we do, we never give up on pucks. I think that's our M.O. We forecheck hard. We get some greasy goals at times but we work for them and I think we were well-rewarded tonight because we stuck with it. We were in a bit of a tough situation in the second period and we just kept playing, kept going and we got a split in Pittsburgh and that's what we wanted," Calvert said.
"You always dream about being the hero in overtime. I think it's real special for our organization tonight, our first career [playoff] win. And we battled for it. It didn't come easy. We were down a couple of goals at different times. Penalty kill was great when it had to be. It was just a great feeling."
In some ways the Calvert goal and the entire evening were microcosms of the Blue Jackets' season: A group of guys banging away and not taking no for an answer, even if "no" appears to be exactly what's being said.
"Just the way we came back is almost like our season in one game. We're sort of getting behind the eight ball and we fight back and we battle back, we don't quit and we keep playing hard and we get rewarded in the end. That's our game," Kekalainen said.
Through the first period it seemed that this game and maybe the series itself was going to get completely away from the Blue Jackets.
The Penguins, as many had predicted, came with a much more focused effort than in Game 1 when they struggled early at home, falling behind 3-1 before tying the game with a couple of quick power-play goals and ultimately coming away with a 4-3 win.
From the get-go on Saturday, the Penguins were faster, more determined and dominated the Blue Jackets.
Even after Columbus' Ryan Johansen scored a power-play goal before that minor penalty was over, the Blue Jackets rarely seemed to have the puck. They mustered just four shots in the first period and, when Niskanen scored on the power play with 2:08 left in the first, the feeling was the rest of the night would be a mere formality.
At least that's what Blue Jackets' history would suggest.
The current group of players, though, had other ideas.
"We were a little overwhelmed at the beginning today and then got settled down and started playing better, but it's just one game," Kekalainen said.
The Penguins came up empty on three second-period power plays and, worse, gave up a shorthanded goal to Calvert to cut the lead to 3-2 before the period reached the midpoint.
It was the second shorthanded goal in as many games given up by a Penguins team that allowed just six shorthanded goals in 82 regular-season games.
Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma pointed to the failure to extend the lead in the second period as a critical juncture in the game.
"Tonight special teams was clearly the difference in this game," Bylsma said.
Through the second and into the third, the Penguins generated fewer and fewer chances, controlled the puck less and less, and won fewer battles.
After outshooting Columbus 15-4 in the first, the Penguins were outshot 27-15 in the second and third periods. Were it not for some outstanding work from Marc-Andre Fleury in the Penguin goal, this game might not have made it to overtime.
"He held us in there. It's tough, you don't want to hang him out to dry there," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby who had two assists on the night.
"We've got to be better. That's really I think the bottom line. Whether it's special teams or five-on-five, we've got to be better."
As it was, Jack Johnson evened the score with a power-play goal with 6:01 left in regulation.
It was his second goal in as many games in the series and, along with two crucial penalty kills in overtime, set the stage for Calvert's heroics.
"It's always your goal to steal one on the road right away, then it really becomes a series. Going back to our home ice playing the playoffs is going to be a blast. First game we were more angry than anything, than disappointed. We felt like we let one slip away in Game 1. We were real anxious to get back here for game 2," Johnson told ESPN.com.
"We've got an extremely resilient group of guys in here. Really level-headed group of guys. We're young but nobody gets too high or too low. I think we've got a real special group, that's why we've proved the so-called experts wrong every time."
The challenge now will be to keep this win -- as important as it is for the franchise, the city and the players -- in perspective.
The Penguins are a battle-tested group. For this win to have a more lasting meaning it has to be viewed as a mere stepping stone; something to be embraced and cherished, but ultimately put quickly in its place.
"I'm sure there's a lot of people in Columbus right now that are very happy to see where this has gotten to. But like coach has said, this is one win. We want a playoff series. We want four [wins]," explained former Penguin Mark Letestu.
"It's a great win. Going back home now I know the guys are excited to see the atmosphere that our building can provide, but it's a good feeling going back with a split right now."
There's an old theory that it takes losing in the playoffs to teach a team how to win. Well, maybe there's also lessons to be learned from winning.
At the most basic level, the Columbus Blue Jackets learned Saturday that they can win, that they could do something that no other Blue Jackets team had been able to do before.
Surely there's a lesson in that.
"I absolutely like to use this to build our confidence up that we can win in the playoffs too. We know we can win in the regular season, now we know we can win in the playoffs too. So let's go get more wins," said Kekalainen.
The Jackets didn't just even this Eastern Conference quarterfinal at one game apiece; they won the hard way, climbing out of a 3-1 deficit and killing off seven of eight Pittsburgh power plays, including two in overtime, writes ESPN.com's Scott Burnside.