It took one extra game than they thought it would, but the defending champions are moving on to the second round.
Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 in Game Five of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Marc-Andre Fleury made a ridiculous 49 saves while Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel both scored in the win. The Penguins won the best-of-seven series 4-1 and will advance to the second round, where they will play either the Washington Capitals or Toronto Maple Leafs.
After scoring the first two goals of Game Four, the Blue Jackets were unable to get their offense going early. It would ultimately lead to their demise.
The Penguins scored Game Five’s first three goals, including two tallies from Bryan Rust. According to the Penguins PR, Rust has seven goals and one assist in nine career elimination games.
The Blue Jackets would wrestle momentum back midway into the second period after William Karlsson and Boone Jenner scored two minutes and fifty-four seconds apart.
Early in the third period, the Jackets believed they completed the comeback as Oliver Bjorkstrand backhanded a loose puck into the back of the net. Instead the tally was waved off due to goalie interference. Alexander Wennberg clipped Marc-Andre Fleury as he skated through the crease.
Sidney Crosby would score a minute later, turning what could have been a tie game into a two-goal lead for the Penguins.
Scott Wilson would score 51 seconds later to finish the scoring.
Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped a meager 27 of 32 shots. The Blue Jackets were without forward Nick Foligno in Game Five due to a lower-body injury.
For most of the year, the Metropolitan Division’s Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Columbus Blue Jackets led the league in standings points. The Blue Jackets would eventually finish fourth, one point behind the Blackhawks. Because of the NHL’s asinine playoff format which require teams to play their division rivals first, the second-best team in the NHL played the fourth-best team in the first round. After an incredible year where they had the second longest winning streak in NHL history (16 games), the Blue Jackets are now eliminated.
If the Caps can win their first-round series against the Leafs, that would set up a matchup between the best two teams in the league in the second round.
What a shame.
Headline image: Joe Sargent
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