Fleury makes 23 saves, Penguins win Game 5
April 27, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
PITTSBURGH -- Marc-Andre Fleury temporarily silenced his critics.
The Penguins hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 and will attempt to eliminate Columbus from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 6 at Nationwide Arena on Monday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS2, ROOT, FS-O).
After falling behind 1-0 midway through the first period, Fleury made 15 stops through the second and third to seal Pittsburgh's victory. Fleury faced criticism following a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4, when he allowed two avoidable goals, one with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation and another in overtime.
The crowd chanted Fleury's name at the beginning of the game, and at the end.
"I don't think it was about bouncing back," Fleury said. "[The chants were] a good boost of confidence. You get a little bit of goose bumps when you're in there. It was a good feeling."
Forward Jussi Jokinen scored the game-winning goal 6:16 into the third period. Lee Stempniak carried the puck through the neutral zone and wristed a shot on Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who bobbled it before Brandon Sutter tipped it back on net. The puck slid out to Jokinen, who buried a backhand behind Bobrovsky to put Pittsburgh ahead 2-1 with his third goal of the playoffs.
Defenseman Kris Letang scored an empty-net goal with 1:01 left.
The Blue Jackets echoed throughout their locker room that they expect to rebound Monday.
"It's that time of year where you need to have a short memory," Columbus forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "I think everybody knows in here that we need to play better. We talk about that resiliency and resolve in here, and I believe in this room and I think the room believes in itself that we'll come back better and stronger."
Bobrovsky might have had his most impressive performance of the postseason. After allowing at least three goals in each of the first four games, Bobrovsky made 48 saves. Teammate Ryan Johansen credited Bobrovsky with giving the Blue Jackets a chance to win while expressing frustration at their inability to make Fleury work.
"[Sergei] definitely stood tall and kept us in there all game," Johansen said. "He really did his job tonight. We'll go over some tape and stuff, but obviously our forecheck, creating turnovers and things like that. I thought we didn't do that nearly as good as we need to, and we only had one power play as well.
"[We] just have to find ways to get pucks to Fleury. Obviously, there was a lot of talk going around that he's struggling, so we didn't test him nearly as much as we should."
Pittsburgh controlled the second period, outshooting the Blue Jackets 21-8, and tied the game with a power-play goal from Chris Kunitz.
After Sidney Crosby sent a shot through Kunitz's legs on goal, Bobrovsky lost sight of it and got turned around in his crease. Kunitz turned and absorbed a collision with Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard while backhanding a shot past Bobrovsky 7:42 into the second.
It was Kunitz's second goal of the playoffs and Crosby's fifth assist. Crosby failed to score a goal for his 10th consecutive playoff game dating to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Ottawa Senators last postseason.
Pittsburgh attempted to spark its two primary stars by putting Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who also has not scored a goal this postseason, on its top line with Kunitz. The adjustment led to little production, particularly during the first period, when Malkin committed three turnovers and Crosby recorded two shots.
"I thought we generated some good chances," Crosby said. "I didn't expect [to be paired with Malkin] as much as it was. It was pretty regular, but I think with that being said, when everybody's playing well, you don't want to change too much.
"I think that's just a credit to everyone, that we all played a pretty strong game."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby and Malkin wanted to play together and he felt the adjustment paid dividends throughout Pittsburgh's lineup.
"I thought Brandon Sutter playing between Jussi and [James Neal], he was real strong in this game and you saw his speed through the neutral zone. He almost broke in a couple times," Bylsma said. "I think we went into the game with a good idea we were going to see that on numerous occasions, and I think the players going in knew it was going to happen."
The Penguins carried the majority of the play in the first period but trailed 1-0. With Marcel Goc in the penalty box for slashing, Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner scored his first playoff goal with five seconds left on the power play.
Jenner sent a shot from the right side of the net into Pittsburgh's crease. The puck ricocheted off Penguins forward Joe Vitale in front and back to Fleury, who was knocked over by Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta. Fleury reached to cover the puck with his glove, but it slipped to Jenner, who backhanded a shot past the downed goalie with 7:05 remaining.
"I thought the first period was probably our best period," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "I thought they took it to another level in the second and they started winning battles. We spent too much time in our own zone and we didn't have much of a forecheck.
"[Bylsma] challenged them and they responded. Now we have to do the same thing on Monday."