Sports Hockey

NHL PLAYOFFS

Penguins ramp up intensity, beat Blue Jackets in Game 5 0

By Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby and left winger Chris Kunitz react to a goal by Kunitz against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period in Game 5 at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby and left winger Chris Kunitz react to a goal by Kunitz against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period in Game 5 at the CONSOL Energy Center. (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

TERRY KOSHAN

Toronto Sun

PITTSBURGH — Dan Bylsma called out his Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, unhappy with his team’s compete level in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The message from the coach, as they say, got through.

The Penguins, thanks to a dominating performance in Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, find themselves within a victory of advancing to the second round after a 3-1 triumph over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center. 

Pittsburgh leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal 3-2 and can wrap it up with a win in Game 6 in Columbus on Monday.

If not for Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the Penguins would have run away with this one, as they outshot the Jackets 51-24 and spent much of the evening in the offensive zone.

From goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — who rebounded from the double debacle that caused the Penguins to lose Game 4 — on out, the Penguins were paced by their own determination and the Jackets didn’t have an answer.

“It’s more fun to play that way, more aggressive and going after them, competing the way we were, that’s how you play the game,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said.

“But the fourth (win) is the toughest. We will take some lessons from this, but also understand that they are going to be at their best and it will take maybe even more than it did (in Game 5). We have to have the same mentality.”

Jackets centre Brandon Dubinsky guaranteed his team will be improved in Game 6. It doesn’t have much choice. But now that the Penguins have re-discovered their capabilities, it’s hard to see their effort being a one-off.

“I said it once, I will say it again,” Dubinsky said. “We will always find a way in this room. We are a resilient group in here and I know we will be better.

“I don’t expect a game like this. I don’t think we were good enough from start to finish, top to bottom, expect for Bobrovsky.”

Quite frankly, it was the kind of performance many had expected from the Penguins before the series started, but through the first four games, it came only in spurts.

The Penguins spotted the Jackets a 1-0 first-period lead on a goal by Boone Jenner, but shrugged it off and controlled play in the second and were rewarded at 7:42 when Chris Kunitz scored on a power play. 

Jussi Jokinen got the winner at 6:16 of the third after some fine work by Brandon Sutter and Kris Letang scored into an empty net with 61 seconds remaining on the clock.

Bylsma had Evgeni Malkin on the top line with Crosby and Kunitz, a move that was made easier as Marcel Goc brought centre-ice depth after he recovered from a foot injury. It allowed Bylsma to get Crosby away from Dubinsky and the result was that Crosby generated more than he had previously in the series. Crosby now has gone 10 consecutive playoff games without a goal, the longest dry spell of his career, but he had six shots on Bobrovsky and missed the net on five others.

As a bonus, Sutter worked well between Jokinen and James Neal.

On the blue line, the Penguins didn’t have injured stalwart Brooks Orpik. But Robert Bortuzzo performed admirably in his first NHL playoff game.

“They really wanted to be together, wanted to go after it,” Bylsma said of Crosby and Malkin. “Having the ability to put them on the ice together with the matchups that were more advantageous to our group (was crucial).”

Part of the plan for the Penguins was to bother Bobrovsky, and while Fleury didn’t have much traffic to deal with at his end, the Jackets didn’t do much to deter the Penguins from getting in Bobrovsky’s work space.

“We needed to be harder in front of our net,” Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We did not spend enough time in their zone to create the same type of scrums around their net.

“There were some bumps here and there. It was how they wanted to play the game.”

FLEURY STILL GETS CHILLS

PITTSBURGH — Marc-Andre Fleury, for all that he has experienced as the No. 1 goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins, still can get the chills.

Fleury’s name was chanted by the capacity crowd of 18,618 at the Consol Energy Center before the opening faceoff and at various times during Game 5 as the Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1.

This after Fleury was the goat in Game 4, misplaying the puck on the tying goal late in the third period and then allowing a softy in overtime.

“That was a good boost of confidence,” Fleury said of the support. “I got little goosebumps. It was a great feeling and I’m happy we were able to get the win.”

Fleury made 23 saves as his teammates dominated the Jackets.

“Everybody wants to say one thing or another about him, but the guy has won a Stanley Cup and you just don’t do that by accident,” Jackets centre Brandon Dubinsky said. “You have to be a pretty good goaltender to do that.”

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