“Nothing ever comes easy in the playoffs.” Such a popular cliche this time of year.
Especially when they ring true. And that’s exactly what happened tonight. Remember game four when the Penguins jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then ended up losing in overtime?
Well they tried to do it with a 4-0 lead tonight.
Goal scoring from one particular superstar that was rather invisible up until tonight was the reason for the 4-0 lead. Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick before the end of the second period and had a few opportunities to score even more. Brandon Sutter also scored on a breakaway.
Sutter continued playing not just the best hockey as a Pen, but the best hockey of his career. That made it even more unfortunate when he left in the second period with an injury and never returned. Joe Vitale also left in what appeared to be significant pain after a knee on knee collision.
Once Vitale went down and the Pens went down to 10 forwards, they appeared to go into a hockey version of the prevent defense and it showed.
Three goals in five minutes pulled the Blue Jackets within one goal. Marc-Andre Fleury played fantastic for most of the game but significant possession and offensive zone time by the Jackets in the third period left him hung out to dry. Fedor Tyutin got it started with a shorthanded goal which is fitting. They Pens have already given up as many shorthanded goals as they did in all of the playoffs last year. Artem Anisimov scored his first goal of the playoffs. Then, game four hero Nick Foligno, scored to send Nationwide Arena into a frenzy for the final 4:47 of the game.
Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled with two minutes left in the game in favor of an extra attacker to attempt to tie the game against the shorthanded Pens. Despite having a few good chances, the Pens were able to cling to the one goal advantage and win the game in regulation to knock out the Jackets and advance into the second round.
Before the series, most Pens fans wanted to play the Blue Jackets. Including me. I don’t regret feeling that way because the Pens won the series but Columbus acquitted themselves well. The winner of a series between potentially new rivals will go on to face an old one. The Pens will face either the New York Rangers or Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. Game six of that series is Tuesday night with the Rangers having a 3-2 advantage.