PENGUINS 3 | BLUE JACKETS 1PITTSBURGH --
CONSOL ENERGY CENTER
Sergei Bobrovsky was far and away the Blue Jackets' best player tonight. Early on, that was great news for Columbus...but as the game wore on, it became less and less of a good thing.
After a first period that felt like neither team really wanted to jump up and take hold of the game, the Penguins hit the accelerator in the second period and started to assert themselves in Game 5. They out-shot the Blue Jackets all the way through the game, and after 40 minutes, they held a 36-17 shots edge and dominated long stretches of play.
Tonight, the difference was a Jussi Jokinen goal at 6:16 of the third period that gave the Penguins their third lead of the series as it heads back to Columbus for Game 6 on Monday.
"We didn't give Bob enough support tonight, he made a lot of big saves at big times," Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu said. "They just made one more ugly goal than us. I don't think we wore down because of the puck possession. They took 50 shots tonight and eventually one found the back of the net.
"I mean, if they're going to push, what are we going to do? It's back in our building and our backs are against the wall. When there is adversity, this is the best that this team has played all year. I expect this first elimination game for everybody to play with their hair on fire."
The Blue Jackets opened the scoring at 12:55 of the first period on a weird scramble around the net. Boone Jenner attempted a centering pass that bounced around in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, and after Fleury thought he had it covered, David Savard poked it loose and Jenner jammed it in for a 1-0 lead.
That's how it stood after 20 minutes, but the final 40 were played in another gear.
Pittsburgh out-shot the Jackets by a 21-8 margin in the second period, firing pucks from all angles at Bobrovsky but "Bob" kept cool and got Columbus to the third period all square. The Penguins, though, came back with another furious start to the period and put the visitors back on their heels; Jokinen's goal was off another net-mouth flurry and the Blue Jackets just could not corral the loose puck.
Jokinen wiggled free and tapped in the game-winner with 13:44 remaining in regulation.
"(Bobrovsky) was great," Richards said. "It was one of those performances where you come into an opposing rink, that's a game that your goaltender can steal for you. We just weren't able to do enough in the offensive zone.
"I expect nothing other than what they've done all year and that is to respond (in Game 6). Coming off of a game where you're obviously disappointed by the result, you're read to respond to it. It's something that these guys have done."
The second period was the difference in the game, and it's when the Penguins hit stride and figured out how they needed to play to have success. Their speed and forecheck helped them win most of the puck battles, and as a result, forced the Blue Jackets to start chasing the game and they could never get the equalizer.
1. CHRIS KUNITZ (PIT)
Kunitz's second goal of the series got the Penguins on the board and brought some life to CONSOL Energy Center, and he now has points in three straight games (two goals, two assists).
2. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY (PIT)
Fleury didn't need to be great tonight, just good enough when called upon - and that's exactly how it went for the Penguins' netminder. He made 23 saves - including a handful of key ones - to hold Columbus to a single goal.
3. SERGEI BOBROVSKY (CBJ)
Kind of a shame that Bob only gets the No. 3 star tonight, because he held the Jackets together while getting bombarded in the final 40 minutes.
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS - GAME 6
VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
MONDAY, 7 PM