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Penguins vs Blue Jackets

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Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Five reasons why the Blue Jackets were eliminated

Tuesday, 04.29.2014 / 1:12 PM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

The Columbus Blue Jackets accomplished so much in this season to remember.

The 93 points accumulated was a franchise record and earned the club its second berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and first since 2009. The Blue Jackets earned their first playoff victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. In Game 4, Columbus had a comeback for the ages, erasing a three-goal deficit to take a 4-3 win to even the best-of-7 series at two games apiece.

But all of those accomplishments and the excitement they brought to this emerging hockey market were scant consolation when Pittsburgh snuffed another desperate rally by the Blue Jackets in Game 6 to escape with a 4-3 victory and end the highly entertaining and ultra-competitive series.

Columbus will have plenty of time to savor what it accomplished during the summer. For now, here are five reasons why the Blue Jackets couldn't extend their season any further:

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Five reasons why the Penguins advanced

Tuesday, 04.29.2014 / 1:39 AM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

It wasn't easy and it was rarely pretty, but the Pittsburgh Penguins found a way to subdue the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round.

In a series eerily similar to the first-round last season against the New York Islanders, the Penguins played some run-and-gun hockey with the seventh-seeded Blue Jackets before holding on to a 4-3 victory in Game 6 to win the series, 4-2.

In the games Pittsburgh lost, Game 2 and Game 4, the Penguins allowed the Blue Jackets to erase deficits of two and three goals, respectively. In all, the Penguins allowed 18 goals in the six games, a defensive showing that must be improved as they advance to even stiffer competition.

Yet, despite the tight nature of the games (Pittsburgh finished with three more goals than Columbus), the Penguins did advance and will play the winner of the series between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, which the Rangers lead 3-2.

Here are five reasons the Penguins are moving on to the second round for the fifth time in the past eight years:

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Blue Jackets can't overcome slow start

Tuesday, 04.29.2014 / 12:35 AM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Craig Merz - NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Truth be told, it was the beginning of Game 6 that proved to be the demise of the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday night that ended their season.

Needing to tie the Eastern Conference First Round best-of-seven series at 3-3, the Blue Jackets promised a better effort than Game 5 on Saturday when they lost 3-1 at Pittsburgh and were outshot 51-24.

Playing before another energized crowd in Columbus, the Blue Jackets did not deliver in the opening 20 minutes. Evgeni Malkin scored twice and the Penguins grabbed a 2-0 lead that would rise to 4-0 on a goal by Brandon Sutter and another by Malkin.

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Penguins' Malkin ends drought with hat trick

Monday, 04.28.2014 / 11:08 PM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Evgeni Malkin delivered when the Pittsburgh Penguins needed him most.

Malkin earned his second career hat trick in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Pittsburgh's 4-3, series-clinching win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round at Nationwide Arena on Monday night. The 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy winner was criticized for his lack of production through the first five games of the series, which included a shot-less performance in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4.

"Another hat-trick performance from Malkin when you need it," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Malkin joined Mario Lemieux (3) and Sidney Crosby (2) as the players in franchise history to record multiple postseason hat tricks. Malkin's first playoff hat trick came in Game 2 of Pittsburgh's sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2009 Eastern Conference Final.

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Fan support frenzied as Blue Jackets face must-win

Monday, 04.28.2014 / 10:12 AM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- When the Columbus Blue Jackets step onto the Nationwide Arena ice Monday trying to stave off elimination in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they will be backed by a raucous crowd.

A group of Blue Jackets fans began camping outside of Nationwide Arena a full 24 hours before tickets go on sale at 5 p.m. Monday for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS2, ROOT, FS-O).

Even as it began to rain heavily in Columbus on Monday morning, the fans waiting to purchase $40 seats did not budge. Ponchos were distributed to those in line, where the "Mighty Ducks" films aired the previous night.

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Analysis: Fleury's positional play not a worry

Saturday, 04.26.2014 / 12:00 PM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

For beleaguered Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the word "meltdown" has become virtually synonymous with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The phrase was already making the rounds to describe Fleury's postseason play before the top-seeded Penguins blew a 3-0 lead in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday. By the time that game ended, with Fleury mishandling a puck behind his own net to gift Columbus the tying goal in the final minute of the third period and whiffing on Nick Foligno's long, dipping shot 2:49 into overtime, the discussions about Fleury's ghosts of playoffs past only intensified.

Fleury has posted a sub-.900 save percentage in four straight postseasons since hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2009 and his last two playoff runs ended with spectacular flameouts, including serving as the backup to Tomas Vokoun last spring after Fleury struggled mightily in the first round against the New York Islanders.

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Without goal, Penguins' Crosby trusts 'puck will go in'

Friday, 04.25.2014 / 4:52 PM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin do not have a goal through four games of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Penguins do not expect that scoring drought to last much longer with the 2-2 series heading into Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

The Penguins' inability to hold on to multiple-goal leads in its two losses in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has turned attention toward the underwhelming play of their two primary stars.

Crosby, who finished the season as the NHL scoring champion with 104 points, has failed to score a goal in nine postseason games. He has five assists in those games, but was held without a point while being swept by the Boston Bruins during last year's Eastern Conference Final.

"I think [during] playoff time, you want to score no matter what," Crosby said. "You want to score every game, but it's a lot easier said than done. I think you just trust the puck will go in. I think the main thing is that you're getting chances. I think when you're getting a lot of chances and sometimes they're not going in, eventually they will and they'll come in bunches.

"But personally, I feel like I'd like to get a few more chances to feel comfortable."

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Islanders' Carkner excited for Blue Jackets

Thursday, 04.24.2014 / 8:53 PM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Jon Lane - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- One year ago, the New York Islanders and defenseman Matt Carkner were standing toe-to-toe with the Pittsburgh Penguins, owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders not only split the first four games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, they sent Marc-Andre Fleury, one of the NHL's top goaltenders, to the bench.

Confidence was high in the Islanders' dressing room, similar to what the Columbus Blue Jackets are feeling after a series-tying 4-3 overtime win against the Penguins in Game 4 on Wednesday. The Blue Jackets have a chance to do on Saturday what Carkner and the Islanders couldn't do last year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs; win Game 5 at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

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Built for playoffs, Dubinsky's will lifts Blue Jackets

Thursday, 04.24.2014 / 3:59 PM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Craig Merz - NHL.com Correspondent

Nick Foligno is not the only player in the Columbus Blue Jackets' dressing room who is good at making predictions.

The left wing told his teammates before the start of overtime in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series Wednesday that he would score the winner against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he did for a 4-3 win that knotted the Stanley Cup Playoffs best-of-7 series at 2-2.

Columbus rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win Game 4, and from down 3-1 in Game 2, with the Penguins also coming back from trailing 3-1 in Games 1 and 3. It's the first series in Stanley Cup Playoffs history in which four consecutive games have been won by a team trailing by two or more goals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

A day prior to that victory, teammate Mark Letestu was asked what fiery center Brandon Dubinsky means to a young team that has thrived under the leadership of veteran players.

"Dubi relishes the big moments," Letestu said. "If you think back to the big moments the last two years for this franchise, he seems to be in or around it.

"His game is built for the playoffs. You can see at any moment that he's head-first into it."

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Penguins doomed by second-period penalties

Thursday, 04.24.2014 / 1:08 AM / Penguins vs Blue Jackets - 2014 SCP First Round

Craig Merz - NHL.com Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets' rally for a Game 4 victory at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday started with Boone Jenner's power-play goal in the first period, but a big reason the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 4-3 in overtime was their parade to the penalty box in the later stages of the second period.

Columbus dominated the middle period thanks to four consecutive power plays in the final eight-plus minutes, during which Ryan Johansen scored a 5-on-3 goal to make it 3-2.

Brandon Dubinsky then scored with 24 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, and Nick Foligno wristed home the winner with a long shot that beat Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 2:49 of overtime.

The Eastern Conference First Round series is tied 2-2. Game 5 of the best-of-7 series is in Pittsburgh on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

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Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis