Penguins roll in Game 5, eliminate Blue Jackets

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PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t always pretty, but the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to deliver the knockout punch to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night with a 5-2 win in Game 5 to punch their ticket to the second round.

There they will face the winner of the Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs series.

Thanks to some strong play from Marc-Andre Fleury (he made 49 saves on Thursday) and an overwhelming offensive attack the Penguins were able to overcome what was, at times, some sketchy play in the defensive zone to advance.

Bryan Rust continued his strong postseason play with two more goals (giving him eight in his past 14 playoff games) while Phil Kessel picked up three points (a goal, two assists) in the win.

Sidney Crosby and Scott Wilson also picked up goals in the win.

The big story in this series though was missed opportunities for the Blue Jackets in their continued failure to build on the fast start they had in pretty much every game, as well as a nightmare performance from Sergei Bobrovsky in net.

Bobrovsky, the likely Vezina Trophy winner this season and a player that will probably get his share of MVP votes, played some of his worst hockey of the season at the worst possible time. He surrendered at least three goals in every game (and at least four goals in four games) and just never seemed to be comfortable at any point in the series.

After giving up the first three goals on Thursday, the Blue Jackets tried to mount a late rally in the second period with a pair of goals to cut the deficit to one.

But following an Alexander Wennberg goaltender interference penalty early in the third period Crosby helped put the game away with a ridiculous one-timer.

Just 53 seconds later Wilson added his first goal of the playoffs.

Blue Jackets’ Foligno will miss Game 5 with lower-body injury

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PITTSBURGH — Already playing without their top defenseman, the Columbus Blue Jackets will also be without their captain, Nick Foligno, when they take the ice for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

The Blue Jackets announced just before the start of the game that Foligno is sidelined with a lower body injury.

He will be replaced in the lineup by veteran forward Scott Hartnell who did not play in Game 4.

It’s a bit of a surprise given that Foligno did not seem to be injured in the Blue Jackets’ Game 4 win (though he did play just 17 minutes, his lowest total of the series) and coach John Tortorella announced earlier in the day there would be no lineup changes for Thursday.

In four games this postseason Foligno has no goals and two assists (both in Game 3).

He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 25 assists in 79 games.

Blue Jackets baffle Fleury, Crosby; push Penguins to Game 5

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Did the Columbus Blue Jackets get back in the groove, even in falling behind 3-0 in their series, considering the four goals they scored against Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3? Either way, they really made “The Flower” wilt on Tuesday.

Granted, Columbus didn’t beat Pittsburgh 5-4 in Game 4 due to Fleury’s struggles alone.

Instead, they played exactly like you’d picture a team would need to play to fight off a sweep: aggressive while shaking off setbacks.

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Early in the second period, the Blue Jackets went up 3-0, only to see the Penguins enter the final frame down a single goal. You could argue that a more fragile team might have fallen apart, especially against an opponent as dangerous as the Penguins.

Instead, the Blue Jackets just kept pushing forward.

William Karlsson made it 4-2 just 27 seconds into the third, a huge goal that prompted fun hair-flip GIFs. Yet … there was another opportunity for frustration to take over when Tom Kuhnhackl shrunk the lead to one goal again about 90 seconds later.

Again, the Blue Jackets just kept fighting. Boone Jenner made it 5-3 mere minutes later on what would ultimately stand as the game-winner.

(Yes, the Penguins scored once again … but too late this time around.)

It was also a rare rough night for Sidney Crosby, who failed to generate a shot on goal and suffered a -3 rating. Three assists from Phil Kessel and two from Evgeni Malkin just weren’t enough to knock the Blue Jackets out.

While Fleury faces some questions after allowing four and five goals in Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky breathes a sigh of relief … though you wonder if there’s still some self-doubt. Merely looking at this stat could make Bobrovsky and others shudder.

They can work on that in Pittsburgh for Game 5. At least tonight they finally won a playoff game in regulation – and stayed alive in the series – on Tuesday.

It’s a long ride to getting the most important first on their minds (first Blue Jackets comeback from a 3-0 deficit), but they took that initial leap tonight.

Just like that, Blue Jackets at risk of continuing trend of squandered leads

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The Columbus Blue Jackets put themselves in a great position to win after the first 20 minutes of Game 4, taking a 2-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They even – seemingly – reversed the trend of bad second-period play, fattening their edge to 3-0 early on.

It was really looking like, maybe, possibly, the Blue Jackets would cruise to their first win of the series.

They enter the second intermission in a … far different state of mind, however.

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

After a Monday full of heart-stopping comebacks, the Blue Jackets rapidly saw a 3-0 edge degrade to a more tenuous 3-2 lead.

The mini-comeback began with Patric Hornqvist scoring from his office (or is it Wayne Simmonds‘ office now?):

A few jaws dropped (or at least some nail-biting commenced) after Ron Hainsey made it 3-2 with just a handful of minutes remaining in the second:

The Blue Jackets merely need to draw even in the third to get to a Game 5. It should be interesting to see if they go aggressive or try to play “prevent defense.” Either way, they’re dangerously close to being swept after a shockingly successful run in 2016-17.

Even Blue Jackets are taken aback by fan’s weird Zach Werenski tribute shirt

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Is it us, or is this postseason already a great one for weird-but-wonderful fan displays?

Think about it, we’re completing the first week of action and there’s already been:

That’s quite the start, and there are almost certainly more amusing and impressive examples of fans going the extra mile. If you want to up the level of bizarre, though, well … feast your eyes on this guy, who baffled even the sardonic Columbus Blue Jackets feed.

… Goodness.

In case you can’t tell, that’s a tribute to Zach Werenski‘s wounds from Game 3 of Penguins – Blue Jackets, when he posted this selfie.

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So, are we going to see an arms war in fan shirts now? Some of us … wouldn’t complain.

Here’s an update on his face: