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Penguins head back to Columbus with 3-2 series lead

by Brian Compton


(Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series, 3-2)


Big story: The Pittsburgh Penguins can advance to the Eastern Conference Second Round with a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh returns to the arena where it surrendered a 3-0 lead en route to a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4. The Penguins know it won't be easy, but they're prepared to enter what is certain to be a hostile environment and close out this first-round series Monday night.

Should Pittsburgh advance, it will face the winner of the series between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

"It's been an up-and-down series for us," forward James Neal said Sunday. "We've played well at times and then it hasn't been there at times. We could've come back in the series and it be 3-1 and us looking at a game [Saturday] night to clinch it, but we just didn't play good enough for that to happen. We're going to go into a loud building in Columbus and have a chance to close out this series.

"It's going to be the toughest game. It always is, the fourth one, but it's exciting. It's the best time of the year and we're having fun with it."

Blue Jackets: Columbus, which is trying to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time in franchise history, knows it needs to tighten up defensively if it plans to force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh. The Blue Jackets allowed 50 shots on goal in Game 5 in a 3-1 loss.

Part of the strategy will be to create more havoc in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who bounced back Saturday after struggling in Game 4.

"We've got to make it tough on Fleury," Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "That doesn't mean running him over and taking penalties. It's going hard and making sure it's a difficult night for him, a difficult night for their defensemen going back and chasing pucks all night.

"We definitely need to be more physical and make them pay the price. That goes back to our forecheck. Our forecheck wasn't hard enough [Saturday]. We weren't physical. We didn't create enough turnovers."

Who's hot: Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen scored his third goal of the series Saturday. Chris Kunitz has goals in back-to-back games. … Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner has three goals in the series.

Injury report: Pittsburgh will likely be without forward Brian Gibbons due to an undisclosed injury. ... Columbus will be without forward RJ Umberger (upper body) and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (undisclosed).

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