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Pittsburgh Penguins on verge of sweep after OT victory

By Doug Bean, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Penguins on verge of sweep after OT victory
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are on the verge of a sweep of Columbus after Sunday night's victory. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Pittsburgh Penguins weathered an early storm on the road Sunday night and rallied from a two-goal deficit to put themselves on the brink of a first-round sweep in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Jake Guentzel scored his third goal of the game at 13:10 of overtime to send the Penguins to a 5-4 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.

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A potential close-out Game 4 for the Penguins is Tuesday night in Nationwide Arena.

Guentzel took a backhand centering pass from linemate Sidney Crosby behind the net and fired a one-timer past Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for the winner.

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The hat trick gave Guentzel four goals in the first three games of the series.

"It's a pretty unique night," Guentzel said.

The defending Stanley Cup champions didn't panic after giving up a goal 11 seconds into the game and then falling behind 3-1 in the first period.

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"When you're down pretty quick and the building is rocking, we just had to regroup," Crosby said, "and we showed a lot of poise coming back."

Bryan Rust scored the Penguins' other two goals, Evgeny Malkin contributed three assists, and Phil Kessel and Crosby each had two assists to lead the comeback.

"I thought it might be our most complete game in the last month, month and a half," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "Some of the goals didn't go our way early on, but we responded the right way, and I think that's such an important aspect of our group."

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Cam Atkinson revved up the Blue Jackets' dormant attack with two first-period goals, and it looked as if Columbus might be on its way to a good night.

The first goal came just 11 seconds after the opening faceoff -- the fastest in team playoff history -- on a rebound off a shot from the left circle from Brandon Dubinsky.

"It's tough when (11) seconds into the game you give up a goal," Sullivan said. "What I love about our group is we kept playing."

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The Penguins answered 3:06 later with Guentzel's first goal. He collected the puck after it bounced off the boards behind the net and beat Bobrovsky on the glove side to tie the score at 1.

Atkinson came back less than two minutes later with his second goal of the game to put Columbus back on top 2-1. After a Penguins turnover, Atkinson skated in on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, dragged the puck in front and fired a low backhander.

A little more than a minute later, defenseman Zach Werenski made it 3-1 with a blast from the top of the left circle that found the top right corner of the net on the lone power play of the opening period.

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"I put energy into the first period and got us on the board and thought we were rolling," Atkinson said. "They're a good team, obviously. They stick around and wait for their opportunities to pounce, and they took advantage of it."

Trailing by two goals after one period, the Penguins started the second as the aggressors and responded with a pair from Rust to tie the score at 3.

The first came on a Rust tip-in of a shot from inside the blue line by Brian Dumoulin at 5:21. Rust then tied the score at 13:25 when he took a cross-ice pass from Malkin just to the left of the crease and the puck squirted under Bobrovsky's pads after it appeared he had made a stop.

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On the play, Werenski collapsed between the circles when the puck hit him in the face. Play continued because Columbus failed to control the puck, and the Penguins took advantage.

Werenski returned in the third period and played several shifts, but the rookie defenseman had to leave the ice for the night when a swollen eye impaired his vision.

In the third period, Guentzel scored the go-ahead goal at 11:48 on a power play. Dubinsky then tied the score at 4 with 4:49 left when he punched in a rebound on a hard shot by teammate Jack Johnson.

In overtime, Fleury made several key stops among his 33 saves, and Guentzel finished off the win, becoming the first rookie in team history with a playoff hat trick.

"Jake is mature beyond his years," Sullivan said. "He's a real good player. I don't think the stage is too big for him. I think he's got a quiet confidence about him."

On a night when the Blue Jackets found some answers for their goal-scoring malaise, they ultimately couldn't stop the Penguins. Bobrovsky finished with 42 saves, but he has not matched the standard he set during the regular season when he won 41 games.

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Now Columbus is on the precipice of elimination in its third-ever playoff series.

"Desperate," Dubinsky said. "We have no other choice. We have to come in here and try to get better. Our backs are against the wall."

NOTES: Penguins LW Nick Bonino took a shot off his jaw in the first period and left the ice but later returned to the game. ... The Blue Jackets were without F Matt Calvert, who was suspended for one game for his cross-check on Penguins RW Tom Kuhnhackl in Game 2 on Friday night. It was the first suspension for Calvert in 347 NHL games. Calvert has one goal in the series. ... LW Sonny Milano replaced Calvert in the Columbus lineup. Milano was called up from Cleveland of the AHL on Saturday. He played in four regular-season games for the Blue Jackets. ... The Penguins won the first two games of the series despite being outhit 51-30 and outshot 79-55. ... The Columbus Dispatch canceled a promotion to hand out crying face images of Penguins C Sidney Crosby. ... The Blue Jackets recalled LW Marcus Hannikainen from the AHL. He played in 10 regular-season games for Columbus but was a healthy scratch Sunday.

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