The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 22, 2014

Blown leads are troubling trend in series

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a Stanley Cup playoff series marked by teams giving up two-goal leads, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi says it’s time to get selfish.

Asked his team’s approach going into Game 4 tonight, Scuderi said: “Let’s get greedy.”

The Penguins carry a 2-1 lead in a topsy-turvy first-round, best-of-seven elimination in which a team has led by a score of 3-1 in each game – and still lost.

Pittsburgh did it in Game 2, the Blue Jackets in Games 1 and 3, including a painful 4-3 home loss on Monday night.

“I’ll tell you, I’d take a 3-1 lead in the next game for sure,” Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson said, with a chuckle.

As was the case in the Penguins’ come-from-behind, 4-3 win on Monday night – each game so far has ended with a 4-3 score – a loud capacity crowd of more than 19,000 is expected at Nationwide Arena.

Here’s five things to keep an eye on:

Dancing without the stars: Penguins superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin – not to mention prominent contributors Chris Kunitz, James Neal and Kris Letang – have yet to score a goal in the first three games.

“Obviously, Sid and Gino (Malkin) and Kuni and James Neal are going to get a lot of the attention, a lot of the tougher matchups,” said forward Lee Stempniak, who had the tying goal in Game 3, part of a three-goal flurry in 2:13 of the third period. “It sort of comes down to the secondary scoring and the other players who can make a difference in the series.”

Crosby hasn’t scored a goal in his last seven playoff games, Malkin in his last six.

Coach Dan Bylsma said crashing the net and pursuing rebounds are the best way to get out of a goal drought.

“I don’t think we can expect it to be an easy goal,” he said. “It’s going to be dirty and ugly and that’s where we’ve got to get them from. That’s regardless whether it’s Brandon Sutter scoring at the net or getting goals from Crosby at the net.”

Duby does it: One of the reasons Crosby has been limited to four assists is hard-nosed Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky. He’s been stellar in not only helping to put the clamps on Crosby, who had an NHL-best 104 points during the regular season, but also adding four assists of his own.

There’s no question he has been the emotional leader for the upstart Blue Jackets, making their first playoff appearance in five years and only the second in the franchise’s 13 seasons.

“Duby relishes the big moments,” said teammate Mark Letestu. “His game is built for the playoffs. You can see at any moment that he’s head-first into it.”

Injury (not much to) report: Both teams had optional practices on Tuesday. Neither offered an assessment of its injured players.

Bylsma said centers Brian Gibbons and Marcel Goc skated but declined further comment about their availability.

Columbus is missing top defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who did not take the ice Tuesday.

In net: Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury has been shaky at times – surrendering a soft goal or two in the opener and two quick ones at the outset of the Penguins’ Game 3 win – but has also been terrific.

“He seems to be hanging in there,” said Letestu, a former Penguin. “You can tell he’s a confident guy now.

“It’s going to take some good shots to beat him and we expected that the whole way through.”

Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t gotten much help as the Blue Jackets have struggled to clear pucks.

“Their goalie actually played really well and made some big saves,” Stempniak said of Game 3.

Crowd control: After having Penguins fans all but take over the arena during the regular season, Blue Jackets greatly outnumbered them and were boisterous in Game 3.

Still, the Blue Jackets coach thinks all that emotion may have worked against them, but they’ll handle it better today.

“The emotion at times kind of derailed us,” coach Todd Richards said. “What I mean by that is just our thinking out on the ice.

“We got caught up in the moment at times, myself included, and it sidetracks your game.”

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