Blue Jackets notebook: Johnson provides unexpected scoring punch

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Kyle Robertson | Dispatch
The Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky, right, celebrates a third-period goal by Jack Johnson, back left, past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury that tied the score at 3.
By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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PITTSBURGH — Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson doesn’t consider himself to be much of a goal scorer.

The score sheets from the first two games of a first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins would suggest otherwise.

Johnson scored a power-play goal at 13:59 of the third period that tied the score at 3 in an eventual 4-3 Blue Jackets win that ended in double overtime last night.

The win tied the series at a game apiece as it shifts to Nationwide Arena for games on Monday and Wednesday.

Johnson, with two goals and one assist through the first two games, trails only the Penguins’ Matt Niskanen (four points) in series points.

“Those were all just circumstances, just being in the right places at the right time,” Johnson said. “I don’t think anyone has ever accused me of being a goal scorer. I’ve been fortunate so far. I’ve been able to contribute when the team has needed me.”

The goals marked the first time Johnson scored in back-to-back games since he was traded to Columbus on Feb. 23, 2012. They are the second and third playoff goals of his career.

His latest was a quick wrist shot from close range on a one-time feed from Ryan Johansen. It put the Blue Jackets in position to get their first playoff win in franchise history.

“We just tried to ride that high through the first OT, and then we got a big goal in the second OT,” Johansen said.

Johnson, who scored into a gaping opening at the right side of the net, said his mission was simple once Johansen swept the puck toward him while he was alone in the right circle.

“Just bury it,” Johnson said. “Ryan made a great play. I was just trying to get lost over there. I think everyone just kind of forgot about me over there, and I just tried to fire it in as hard as I could.”

Gibbons boosts Penguins

Penguins forward Brian Gibbons began a first-round playoff series against the Blue Jackets on his team’s bottom line, an unsurprising spot for a 5-foot-8 rookie with 41 career NHL games on his résumé.

He didn’t stay there long. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma moved the speedy Gibbons to the top line early in the second period of the opener, and Gibbons remained there for Game 2 last night.

It was a prudent move. Gibbons entered the playoffs with five goals — just one since Feb. 5 — but scored twice in the first 4:24 to stake the Penguins to a 2-0 lead. Gibbons’ goals, a deflection of a shot by Niskanen at 3:30 and a short-handed breakaway at 4:24, were scored 54 seconds apart.

Fast, just like Gibbons.

“Flat-out, straightaway speed — I don’t know where Brian would rank in the league, but I think he’s the fastest guy on our team,” Bylsma said before the game. “He’s not the quickest guy, but he’s the fastest guy straightaway.”

That suits center Sidney Crosby, who prefers speedy wingers at his flanks.

“Sid is a player that likes and needs his linemates to force the other team with their speed and get on defensemen,” Bylsma said. “(Crosby will be) able to read where the puck is going to go because of that speed.”

Gibbons’ big game was short-lived. He suffered an undetermined injury midway through the first period when he put an awkward hit on Ryan Johansen. Gibbons left the bench area afterward and did not return, having played just .2:26 of ice time.

Early exit for Tyutin

Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin did not play after being hit by Penguins forward Tanner Glass with 22 seconds left in the first period.

Tyutin also was hit hard by Penguins forward Chris Kunitz during his first shift of the game. He blocked one shot and was called for a holding minor. He played 6:55.

Richards declined to update on Tyutin’s status after the game.

 

Slap shots

The Penguins and Blue Jackets combined for three short-handed goals in the first two games of the series. Gibbons and Blue Jackets left wing Matt Calvert each scored short-handed goals last night. Blue Jackets left wing Derek MacKenzie scored one on Wednesday. … Gibbons and MacKenzie scored their goals during penalties in which their opponents later scored power-play goals.

 

smitchell@dispatch.com

@smitchcd

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