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Marc-Andre Fleury makes most of playoff opportunity for Penguins

Goalie steps in at last minute, plays brilliantly in series victory against Blue Jackets

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't supposed to play. He was supposed to sit on the bench, back up Matt Murray and cheer on the Pittsburgh Penguins as he did last season for most of their run to the Stanley Cup.

But as Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, "Every team writes its own story." And this time the plot twisted back around.

Murray, who took over when Fleury sustained concussions last season, sustained a lower-body injury during warmups before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round. Fleury, who led the Penguins to the Cup in 2009, was back in the net again.

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Round 1

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoying moment with Penguins

32-year-old Pittsburgh goaltender happy to have chance to start against Blue Jackets during playoffs

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- Marc-Andre Fleury remembers a moment during his rookie season as a goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were playing the Colorado Avalanche at old Mellon Arena, and forward Joe Sakic broke away.

Sakic was a winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player, a winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a two-time Stanley Cup champion. Fleury had grown up watching him.

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playoffs

Blue Jackets need Sergei Bobrovsky to save season

Columbus hoping goalie returns to top form against Penguins in Game 5

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- The Columbus Blue Jackets hope the turning point for Sergei Bobrovsky came on Tuesday.

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Plenty of work remains, but Blue Jackets get important win

Players, fans celebrate second playoff victory at home, first in regulation

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

COLUMBUS -- Jake Guentzel scored shorthanded for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the lead was down to one again for the Columbus Blue Jackets with 27.5 seconds left in the third period Tuesday. The fans gasped at Nationwide Arena.

For a moment.

Already on their feet, the fans chanted, "C-B-J! C-B-J!" They cheered as the seconds ticked off the clock, then roared as the Blue Jackets cleared their zone and the horn sounded. The cannon blasted. Red and blue streamers fell from the rafters. Fans walked out high-fiving ushers.

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Speed prevailing factor for Penguins

Blue Jackets must slow down defending champs to avoid sweep, extend series in Game 4 Tuesday

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

COLUMBUS -- The Pittsburgh Penguins present the same problem for opponents they did last year, when they won the Stanley Cup.

They have so much speed, skill, commitment and cohesiveness, they can make 5-on-5 playoff hockey look like 3-on-3 overtime in the regular season. When their goaltender makes a save, or they force a turnover in the defensive or neutral zone, whoosh, they're gone. They're flying down the ice on an odd-man rush.

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Jake Guentzel of Penguins having playoffs to remember

Rookie, who scored hat trick in Game 3 against Blue Jackets, impressing parents, teammates

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

COLUMBUS -- Mike and Sally Guentzel have a unique way of following their son Jake, a rookie forward with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mike is the associate head coach of the men's hockey team at the University of Minnesota and sometimes can't watch Jake's games. So when Jake assists on a goal, Sally will text an apple emoji, and when Jake scores, she'll text "bingo."

Mike was scouting in Sioux City, Iowa, when Jake was playing in Columbus on Sunday. Mike watched the United States Hockey League's Clark Cup Playoffs and listened to a radio broadcast of the Stanley Cup Playoffs using headphones and the NHL app. His phone buzzed.

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Blue Jackets must regroup following Game 3 loss

Columbus desperate, on brink of elimination after failing to protect lead in defeat against Penguins

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

COLUMBUS -- This was brutal for the Columbus Blue Jackets, from the cut snaking under Zach Werenski's black eye, to the blown lead in the second period, to Brandon Dubinsky's shot off Marc-Andre Fleury's mask in overtime, to the final score.

The Blue Jackets started strong, gave a gutsy effort and had a chance to win a home game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2014 and the second time ever. But they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 at Nationwide Arena on Sunday when Jake Guentzel completed a hat trick 13:10 into overtime, and now, suddenly, the best season in franchise history is on the brink.

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playoffs

Stanley Cup Playoff postcard: Washington

NHL.com's Nicholas J. Cotsonika helps wife cope with trials of being longtime Capitals fan

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

WASHINGTON -- My dear wife,

Wish you were here to see your Washington Capitals play the Toronto Maple Leafs in Games 1 and 2 of this best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series. But maybe it's best you weren't. I love you. I care about your health.

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playoffs

Maple Leafs show resilience against Capitals

Overcome injury to defenseman Roman Polak to win Game 2 in overtime on road

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

WASHINGTON -- Brian Boyle was stretching on the floor outside the Toronto Maple Leafs locker room late Saturday night when teammate Roman Polak came past. You would never have known Polak had a season-ending injury, except, well, he was being pushed in a huge wheelchair with a boot on his lower right leg.

With a smile, Polak patted Boyle on the back.

"Nice job, buddy," Polak said.

"Love ya," Boyle said.

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Young Maple Leafs learning value of patience

Limited opportunities in playoffs mean doing things right way is vital

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

WASHINGTON -- This is a column about nothing.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are learning the Stanley Cup Playoffs are like "Seinfeld," even though the playoffs are no joke. The TV show was supposed to be about nothing, but it was really about the minutiae of daily life. All the nothing eventually added up to something. You loved it along the way.

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