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Endgame: Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 1

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

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Penguins Report: Game Day vs Columbus
Verizon Game Day Report
Pregame: Sidney Crosby
Pregame: Marcel Goc
Pregame: Paul Martin
Pregame: Rob Scuderi
Trib Playoff Update 4/25

The Penguins beat the Blue Jackets, 3-1, in Game 5 on Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center to take a 3-2 series lead. Chris Kunitz, Jussi Jokinen and Kris Letang (empty-netter) all scored for the Penguins. The main storylines of the game are below…

Marc-Andre Fleury has been a hot topic of conversation since Wednesday’s Game 4 loss, with one of the biggest questions being whether or not he would respond to the adversial setback in Saturday’s Game 5.

He answered that emphatically with a rock-solid performance in Pittsburgh’s 3-1 win, making 23 saves to secure the victory. And the fans in CONSOL Energy Center were behind their goaltender from start to finish, as they started a spontaneous, thundering chant of “FLEURY! FLEURY!” as he stood in his crease before the national anthem, and again when he was announced as the game’s No. 2 star.

“That’s a good boost of confidence, get goosebumps when you’re in there,” Fleury said with a huge grin. “Definitely a great feeling and very happy we were able to get a win here at home tonight.”

Fleury said for him, tonight his mentality wasn’t necessarily about bouncing back.

“It was just about putting it behind (me) and being ready for tonight,” he said.

And he did that. Right from the start.

“I thought starting with Marc coming out with a tremendous effort and playing well, the entire room was able to keep our intensity level and our pace of play real high throughout the game,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said.

Down at the other end of the ice, the Pens fired 50 shots at Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. They had 51 total in the contest including the empty-net goal, marking just the third time in team history the Pens have topped the 50-shot mark during regulation in a playoff game.

Bobrovsky is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top netminder. He’s certainly tough to beat and proved that with his play tonight, but the Pens stuck with their game plan of firing as much pucks at the net as possible and capitalized just enough times to get the win. At first, Bobrovsky was seeing a lot of them and they were coming from the perimeter, but when the Pens started getting more traffic to the crease their luck began to change.

“We wanted to have 15 shots a period and I think that’s what we did tonight,” Jokinen said. “Playoff goals are scored in front of the net, second chances, stuff like that and that’s how we scored both our goals.”

The Pens had 15 shots in the first, 21 in the second – tying a franchise postseason record for shots in a single period (first established: April 15, 1975 against the New York Islanders) – and 14 in the third.

“(Bobrovsky) was solid,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “When it’s tight like that and you’re getting some good chances and they’re not going in, you just have to stay patient. You see that time and time again in the playoffs. You just trust that eventually you’ll keep getting a few and eventually we did.”

Bylsma has been known to put the two-headed monster of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice together for shifts in certain situations at different parts of games. For example, after a penalty kill, at the end of a period or when the Pens are trying to generate offense. But he’s never left them on a line together for extended periods of time.

However, that changed on Saturday as Bylsma kept sending the two of them over the boards together for regular shifts with Chris Kunitz, in part to get them away from Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky. Those three played as a line for the majority of the game.

“Just having the home matchup and having the ability to put them on the ice together with the matchups that were more advantageous to our group,” Bylsma said of his thought process behind the switch, adding, “But I think really, they wanted to be together. They wanted to go after it. We had a lot of opportunities to do that tonight and did.”

Crosby and Malkin weren’t able to break their goalless droughts, but they combined for 10 shots and created a lot of chances and looks.

“I thought it went pretty good,” Crosby said. “I thought we generated some good chances. I didn’t expect it to be as much as it was, it was pretty regular. I think that when everyone is playing well, you don’t want to change so much. I think that’s just a credit to everyone who played a pretty strong game and we generated a lot of chances every line.”

-Robert Bortuzzo made his NHL playoff debut tonight with Brooks Orpik out with an undisclosed injury. He was paired with Rob Scuderi and played 13:36 minutes in the contest.

“I thought he was fantastic,” Scuderi said of Bortuzzo. “(Bortuzzo) brings a lot of energy. He’s physical. He’s vocal. He brings a lot to our locker room and I think I can speak for the room where everyone’s glad to see him do well.”

Bortuzzo said after the game that playing was nice, but winning was sweeter.

“It was far from perfect ... I tried to get to my game,” Bortuzzo said. “It was pretty fun out there tonight, didn’t get too much sleep during the nap today, but it’s obviously exciting and for us to pull off the win was the biggest thing tonight.”

- Center Marcel Goc played in his first playoff game this season after returning from a foot injury suffered March 27 against the Los Angeles Kings. He started the game as the fourth-line center, but was later moved up to the third line with Beau Bennett and Lee Stempniak. He also centered the second line of Jussi Jokinen and James Neal when Evgeni Malkin was transitioned to Sidney Crosby’s line. He finished playing 10:37 and registering one shot.

- Crosby just can’t seem to score an empty-net goal, something he even acknowledged after tonight’s 3-1 win over Columbus. He was given the chance to tuck away the Penguins’ third goal of the night, but his shot ringed off the post. However, after the game Crosby was all smiles regardless.

“I guess I didn’t want that one,” Crosby laughed. “It’s not like it’s been long, right? It’s not easy as it looks, I guess.”

Crosby’s last empty-net goal was scored on March 30 against the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-1 victory.

--Addison Smith

Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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