The Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the second round tonight, but they still have a lot to prove going forward. They had a 4-0 lead going into the third period and once again the Penguins weren’t able to play sound defensively with the lead.
Ultimately the clock was their friend as the Blue Jackets still lost 4-3.
With the exception of Game 5, even when the Penguins did win in this series, it was by overwhelming Columbus offensively and that’s a strategy that will be difficult to pull off in the later rounds against more experienced and loaded teams.
Fleury took a lot of heat for his collapse in Game 4 and questions remain about his future in Pittsburgh after years of being solid in the regular season and less than satisfactory in the playoffs.
In the end, it was Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin that was the hero tonight. He ended his career-worst nine playoff game scoring drought with style by posting a hat trick.
Brandon Sutter accounted for the Penguins’ other goal, but he was also hurt during the contest. So was Penguins forward Joe Vitale due to a knee-on-knee collision with Blake Comeau.
Given how the Penguins played while missing them for a large chunk of the third period, it would be very troubling if either of those injuries proved to be significant.
At the end of the day though, Pittsburgh did prevail. The team still has a chance to silence the critics and its goal of winning the Stanley Cup is still alive.