PITTSBURGH - Six weeks ago, Brandon Sutter woke up on trade deadline day not knowing if he'd be with the Penguins for much longer.
Sutter was tied to prospective trade offers. Perhaps worse, though, the Penguins kept him and acquired a replacement. Soon after, Sutter was demoted to the fourth line from his customary third-line spot.
But in the Penguins' postseason opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, Sutter was the hero.
Sutter's goal with 12:42 to play capped a Penguins' comeback from down two and lifted them to a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the first-round series.
“We're happy for him,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “He does a lot of things that go under the radar that help our team win, a lot of the small details ... that you need to win games.”
Sutter's wrist shot from the top of the right-wing circle beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky between his right (stick) hand and his body. Sutter was on a 2-on-1 with Beau Bennett, who fed him the puck in the neutral zone.
“(Bennett) drove to the net, and it kind of pulled the d-man back a bit, and they did good job of taking the pass away so I knew I had to shoot it,” Sutter said. “You just look up and try to pick a spot and shoot it there.”
The goal accounted for Sutter's only point but he provided a screen in front of Bobrovsky for a Penguins power-play goal 1:34 into the second that answered a Columbus short-handed tally 51 seconds earlier and kept the Penguins in the game when it looked to be slipping away at 3-1.
Sutter also had a breakaway during the second period, but Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin denied a shot when he hooked Sutter's stick from behind with his stick.
“You get a break like that, you prefer to at least get a shot off,” Sutter said. “So it was nice to bounce back and get one.”
Bouncing back is what Sutter has done after being on the verge of being forgotten in early March. First there was the prospective trade to Vancouver. When that never materialized, the Penguins instead acquired Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak. A few games into his Penguins tenure, Goc was centering the third line and Sutter the fourth.
But Goc suffered an ankle injury late last month, putting Sutter back in his usual spot.
“He's very responsible out there,” said Bennett, who played the final two periods on a line with Sutter. “It's not a hard transition when you're playing with him. He's always in the right spot.”
(Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.)