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Brandon Star Leads Jackets to First Playoff Win

Matt Calvert doesn’t mind if you called him a “hero.” He just finds it a little surprising, that’s all.

The former high scoring leftwinger of his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings scored his second goal of the game 1:10 into double overtime on Saturday night to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 win over the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins – in Pittsburgh, no less. It was the first playoff win in Blue Jackets franchise history and it made the former Western Hockey League a household name. At least, for one night.

Calvert scores his first goal shorthanded.

Calvert scores his first goal shorthanded.

“You always dream about being the hero in overtime,” Calvert told a group of reporters who actually found out where his locker was located. “We battled for it and it didn’t come easy. We were down a couple goals at different times. The penalty kill was great when it had to be and it’s just a great feeling right now.”

It’s been quite a playoff week for the Manitobans in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Winnipeg’s Dale Weise scored an overtime game-winner for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, Winnipeg’s Alexander Steen did it on Thursday and then Brandon’s Calvert banged home the winner on Saturday.

Columbus, which rallied from a two-goal deficit, will host Game 3 at Nationwide Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, FS-O, CBC, RDS2).

“This is my third season and I know the struggles that we went through to get to this point, but I don’t know the history of the team,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards told hi s post-game news conference. “For me, it’s always about moving forward and what’s going to happen next? What’s next on our agenda? What’s going to happen tomorrow?

“For me, it’s a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it’s big.”

Calvert scored Columbus’ second shorthanded goal of the series, just 6:25 into the second period. Heled a three-on-one break into the Pittsburgh zone and snapped snapped a wicked shot past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 3-2. He scored the winner on a rebound in the middle of the night.

Calvert cuts to the net

Calvert cuts to the net

Of course, scoring shorthanded goals is nothing new for Calvert. Back in 2009, while killing penalties for the Wheat Kings, became the first and only player ever to score three short-handed goals – in a row – in one period. It came in the second period of a third-round playoff game against the Calgary Hitmen — on three different penalty kills. In a span of 6:45, Calvert scored a natural hat-trick and set a WHL record that will never be broken.

The fact he set that record while playing for his hometown team is a bonus for a guy who still calls himself “a Brandon guy.”

He still goes back to Brandon every summer. He owns a home there and his best friends live there. He plays summer hockey with The Wagons and his fiancé, Courtney, is a Brandon girl. Granted, he’s famous in Brandon, but not so famous that it’s gone to his head.

“I’m just attached to Brandon,” he said. “It’s my hometown and I still love it. Sure, I’m kind of famous there, but I was famous in Brandon when I played for the Wheat Kings.

Calvert about to be mobbed by his teammates after scoring the winner

Calvert about to be mobbed by his teammates after scoring the winner

“The coach who was most influential to me in my career was my Triple A midget coach with the Wheat Kings, Craig Anderson. We’re still tight to this day. He runs a hockey school in Brandon and I’m still involved with it. Brandon is an awesome place. I just love the lifestyle.

“There is nothing better in the world than summer at the lake with all my old friends. I love being an NHL player, but when the season ends, I’m just a Brandon guy.”

Saturday night, he became Brandon’s most famous guy. And pretty big in Columbus, Ohio, too.

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