Thoughts, musings, and obervations from the Pens' 5-2 win in Game Five against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
* Marc-Andre Fleury had the busiest night of his playoff career. He was forced to make the most saves ever in a series-clinching win, turning aside 49 of 51 shots. And it wasn't just that he faced a high quantity of shots (though that alone is a lot to deal with). He faced a ton of high quality chances and came up with brilliant saves. Those chances came in different forms. The Jackets were finding soft spots on the ice that allowed them to go in alone, and also created a lot of traffic in front that resulted in scrambles and second and third chances. But Fleury was up to the challenges they presented, especially late.
* Fleury now has 57 playoff wins, establishing a new franchise record. It was fitting that he got that in front of the fans who, as he put it, have supported him so much this season and throughout the years. As the clock ticked down late in regulation, the crowd began showing their appreciation for the franchise netminder by absolutely roaring his name. It was SO loud and such an amazing atmosphere. "Still get butterflies and goosebumps when you hear the crowd chant," he smiled after the game. "I'm happy I was able to contribute and get that win here tonight."
* The Pens talked a lot about matching Columbus' desperation. They said they had to find that same level of work ethic and will. And they did at times throughout the first two periods, but it wasn't enough. However, they dug deep for the third and found that killer instinct that had been missing in Game 4 and for much of this Game 5.
* The Pens also talked a lot about momentum in this series. How important it is to grab it and hold onto it, and when it does get away, finding ways to get it back. The Pens also struggled in that area at times tonight, but came up big in that regard in the final frame. It began when Columbus appeared to tie the game at 3-3, but the goal was immediately waved off due to goalie interference. The Pens were given a critical power play, and leader Sidney Crosby stepped up with a huge goal.
But what I loved the most was how the Pens responded on the next couple of shifts, which are always absolutely crucial following a goal. They knew the Jackets would try to respond and they didn't let them. They didn't sit back. They continued to push and got rewarded with another goal from Scott Wilson less than a minute later that put the nail in Columbus' coffin.
* Wilson came up clutch with his first career playoff goal, as did another young guy in Bryan Rust. The second-year winger tallied twice in the game, giving him seven goals in nine elimination games over his two postseasons. Mike Sullivan called him a high-stakes player who has shown an ability in his short time with the Pens to play his best when the game is most important.
* The power play produced a pair of goals, both coming at vitally important times. Phil Kessel opened the scoring to turn the tide after another strong start from their opponent (more on that below) while Crosby's gave the Pens some much-needed relief and breathing room after a push from Columbus.
* Looks like we'll have to continue waiting for that strong start the Pens talked about all series. For whatever reason, they just haven't been in the mindset Sullivan said they need to have in terms of being ready to dictate the terms from the drop of the puck. The Blue Jackets pinned the Pens down in their end for the first few minutes of play and got out to an 8-1 shot advantage. At one point a shot flew over Fleury's shoulder and was going in, but Olli Maatta had the hand-eye coordination to whack it out of midair and out of danger.
* Overall, the Pens really struggled to get out of their end this series. Breakouts were a big issue for them, and it's something they'll need to rectify moving forward into the next one. They have to make smarter decisions and execute better.