PITTSBURGH — Brandon Sutter scored to snap a tie 8:18 into the third period as the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a two-goal deficit to upend the Columbus Clippers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series Wednesday night, 4-3.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen and Beau Bennett each scored a power-play goal and added an assist while Jussi Jokinen also tallied for the Penguins, who won all five meetings this season between the Metropolitan Division rivals. Evgeni Malkin notched two assists in his return following an 11-game absence due to a foot injury and Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 31 saves for Pittsburgh, which hosts Game 2 on Saturday.
Blue-liner Jack Johnson collected a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, who were swept by Detroit in 2009 in their only previous playoff appearance. Former Penguin Mark Letestu scored on the power play and Derek MacKenzie netted a short-handed goal in the loss.
With the game tied at 3-3, Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin (two assists) batted a puck out of the air in his own zone to turn the tide. Bennett skated up ice before feeding Sutter, who wristed a shot from above the right dot that handcuffed Sergei Bobrovsky (28 saves). Jack Skille’s bid for the equalizer hit the post with under four minutes to play.
MacKenzie tapped the puck past Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang at neutral ice before skating in and beating Fleury to give Columbus a 3-1 lead just 43 seconds into the middle session. Niskanen’s blast from above the right circle was deflected by Bennett to cut the deficit 51 seconds later and the defenseman forged a tie 45 ticks afterward with his bid from the left circle that sailed between the pads of Bobrovsky.
GAME NOTEBOOK: MacKenzie became the eighth player in NHL history to score a short-handed goal in his first career playoff game. Pittsburgh’s Brad Werenka was the last to do it on April 23, 1998. … After scoring in the last three games of the regular season, Jokinen wristed a shot past Bobrovsky from the slot to forge a 1-1 tie at 17:13 of the first period. … Johnson’s goal at 6:20 of the first period gave Columbus its first lead in Pittsburgh all season.