After taking Game 4 in Columbus on Tuesday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets earned one more chance to extend their season on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. Despite the long odds, the Jackets could have made things interesting had they forced a Game 6 back at Nationwide Arena. The Pittsburgh Penguins had other ideas as they were looking to end the series in five games in front of their home crowd.
After hearing Penguins coach Mike Sullivan before the game confidently state his team would play better in Game 5, the expectation coming into the game was that the Blue Jackets would have to weather the storm early.
In reality, it was the Pens who were on their heels in the first five minutes. Unfortunately for the Jackets, Marc Andre Fleury stopped everything they sent his way. Despite their best efforts, the CBJ were not only held off the board in the first period, but allowed a Phil Kessel power play-goal just after the half-way point to go down 1-0. The Blue Jackets did a nice job ensuring it didn’t get out of hand afterwards, keeping the Penguins at bay for the rest of the period.
The Jackets came out strong again to start the second period, but Bryan Rust wasn’t about to let the CBJ get back in the game. In the first four minutes of the period, the 24-year-old winger scored twice, giving the Penguins a 3-0 lead.
With the game in the balance, the Blue Jackets started to fight back. At the 9:30 mark of the second period, Sam Gagner picked off a Pens clearing attempt and found William Karlsson, who beat Fleury to cut the Penguins lead to two. Less than two minutes later, the Jackets drew a penalty and capitalized. Seth Jones got a shot off on Fleury, the rebound fluttered up in the air, and Boone Jenner knocked it in before it fell to the ice. As the two teams went into the second intermission, the Pens were on top 3-2.
Just prior to the four minute mark of the third period, Alexander Wennberg took a somewhat questionable goaltender interference penalty to put the Penguins on the man advantage. The Jackets had actually scored on the play, but the goal was waived off as Fleury fell to the ice.
Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella appeared very upset when the call was made, but viewed it as a moot point afterwards:
There’s no sense of me having a viewpoint on it. It happened.
The Pens, as great teams do, took advantage. Sidney Crosby scored on a tough-angle shot on the ensuing power play to make it 4-2. With the smell of blood in the water, the Penguins added another goal just 51 seconds later.
With a little over 13 minutes left in the game, the Jackets were staring up at a 5-2 deficit against the defending champs. The CBJ put up a good effort, totaling 51 shots on goal in the game, but didn’t convert on enough of those chances for it to matter.
Torts mentioned the scoring opportunities in the press conference saying:
We had a lot of chances… I think we had over thirty chances which is just insane…We needed to capitalize…We didn’t, they (the Penguins) did.
After the best regular season in franchise history, the Blue Jackets were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tortorella & Co. will have an offseason to learn from their postseason experience and get ready for next year.
Torts sounded excited for what’s ahead for his club:
I can’t wait to get going again with ’em. Quite honestly I’m proud of ’em, I’m very proud of the group.