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5 Keys: Blue Jackets at Penguins, Game 5

Pittsburgh will advance to Eastern Conference Second Round with win; Columbus remains confident in goalie Sergei Bobrovsky

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

BLUE JACKETS at PENGUINS

7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, FS-O

Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 3-1

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins could close their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday.

The Blue Jackets avoided elimination at home with a 5-4 win in Game 4 on Tuesday. They will look to maintain their scoring touch, with the Penguins attempting to solidify their defense.

Here are 5 keys for Game 5:

 

1. Penguins need better start

In Game 1, the Penguins were outshot 16-3 in the first period. In Game 2, they were outshot 8-0 before center Sidney Crosby scored on their first shot at 8:31 of the first. In Game 3, the Penguins were outscored 3-1 in the first period.

They rebounded to win each of those games but weren't as fortunate when they fell behind 2-0 in the first period of Game 4.

An improved early effort could play a large role in the Penguins ending the series.

"I think if we can … keep the momentum on our side from the drop of the puck, I think that will be crucial," forward Conor Sheary said.

 Video: Recapping Penguins-Blue Jackets Game 4

 

2. Confidence in Sergei Bobrovsky

The Columbus goalie is searching for his first quality start during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After he allowed nine goals on 78 shots in his past two games, the Blue Jackets hope that start comes Thursday.

Bobrovsky is 1-3 with a 3.61 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in the series. In his NHL playoff career, he is 3-9 with a 3.53 GAA and .890 save percentage.

However, the Blue Jackets' confidence in Bobrovsky hasn't wavered.

"I know there's a little bit of chatter out there about [Bobrovsky]," coach John Tortorella said. "He is the backbone of our team. We don't have a sniff … if it doesn't start with him."

Video: PIT@CBJ, Gm4: Bobrovsky shuts the door on Malkin

 

3. Sidney Crosby's response

After Crosby had five points (one goal, four assists) in his previous two games, he did not have a shot attempt in Game 4.

Though Crosby assisted on forward Patric Hornqvist's power-play goal at 6:43 of the second period, he was disappointed with his performance. Tuesday marked the first time he did not have a shot on goal in an NHL playoff game since May 26, 2009.

Crosby needs three assists to tie Mario Lemieux (96) for most in Pittsburgh postseason history and four points to tie Jaromir Jagr (147) for second in Penguins playoff history behind Lemieux (172).

If Crosby reaches either milestone in Game 5, the Penguins likely will be on their way to the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Video: CBJ@PIT, Gm2: Crosby pots 50th career playoff goal

 
4. Blue Jackets' desperation level

Following Game 4, the Penguins admitted they failed to match the Blue Jackets' level of desperation. The approach by Columbus isn't expected to change in Game 5, again facing elimination.

The Blue Jackets had a 14-6 shot advantage after the first period in Game 4, a theme throughout the series. The ice seemed a bit further tilted in their direction than in previous games, however.

Columbus knows it must maintain that desperation to get a win in Pittsburgh.

"We have to make this a series," Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert said. "It's 3-1 right now. If you make it 3-2, we're going back home and momentum swings our way."

 

5. Jake Guentzel on a roll

The rookie forward has been the Penguins' most explosive goal-scorer through four games. What's more impressive is before those four games, the 22-year-old never had played in the NHL playoffs.

When Guentzel scored with 28 seconds left in Game 4, he became the first NHL rookie to score five goals in his first four playoff games since Maurice Richard with the Montreal Canadiens in 1944, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He has scored at least one goal in three of four playoff games and in eight of his past nine games since March 31.

"I think we have to bounce back on home ice tonight," Guentzel said.

Video: PIT@CBJ, Gm4: Guentzel roofs rebound for late SHG

 

Blue Jackets projected lineup

Nick Foligno -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner -- Alexander Wennberg -- Brandon Saad

Sam Gagner -- Lukas Sedlak -- Oliver Bjorkstrand

Matt Calvert -- William Karlsson -- Josh Anderson

Kyle Quincey -- Seth Jones

Jack Johnson -- David Savard

Markus Nutivaara -- Gabriel Carlsson

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: Lauri Korpikoski, Scott Hartnell, Scott Harrington, Anton Forsberg, Markus Hannikainen, Sonny Milano

Injured: David Clarkson (back), Ryan Murray (hand), Zach Werenski (facial fractures)

 

Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Conor Sheary

Bryan Rust -- Evgeni Malkin -- Phil Kessel

Scott Wilson -- Nick Bonino -- Patric Hornqvist

Tom Kuhnhackl -- Matt Cullen -- Carter Rowney

Brian Dumoulin -- Ron Hainsey

Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz

Olli Maatta -- Trevor Daley

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tristan Jarry

Scratched: Cameron Gaunce, Josh Archibald, Mark Streit, Tom Sestito

Injured: Matt Murray (lower body), Kris Letang (upper body), Carl Hagelin (lower body), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Chad Ruhwedel (upper body)

 

Status report

Tortorella confirmed the Blue Jackets lineup would not change from Game 4. … Kessel and Daley each participated in Pittsburgh's optional morning skate after sitting out practice Wednesday and are expected to play. Kunitz (lower body) and Ruhwedel (upper body) skated before practice. They likely won't return in Game 5.

 

Who's hot

After being benched in the third period of Game 1, Saad has three points (one goal, two assists) in his past three games. He had two assists in Game 4. … Malkin leads the Penguins with eight points (two goals, six assists) this series. He returned from an upper-body injury, which sidelined him for 13 games, in Game 1.

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