History suggested the Penguins would win this game, and they did. By doing something they never do — change.
Whichever way it truly came to be, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin decided to play together, and that decision changed the way the game was played for the Blue Jackets.
A quote from Todd Richards before the game:
“I used Brandon (Dubinsky) most of the time against Crosby, and that’s not an easy task.”
While neither Malkin or Crosby scored, the Geno-Crosby move put Richards in a bind, and it changed Dubinsky’s approach. He couldn’t dog Crosby all game, because Malkin was lurking. Malkin and Crosby didn’t do much in this game at even strength, but take note of this in the third: Crosby, away from Dubinsky, had this chance, maybe his best of the series:
By the time the third period rolled around, Crosby and Malkin were dictating the game when they were on the ice instead of a second-rate player like Dubinsky.
Real quick: One of the main stories in this series has become the amount of idiotic penalties the Blue Jackets are taking. It just makes no sense at all.
Now the Penguins go to Columbus with a 3-2 series lead. Game 6′s on the road aren’t the easiest thing to win, and NWA is going to be a madhouse. Given the way this series has gone, we’d put money on this series coming to CONSOL for a Game 7.
But the Pens fan in us realizes how stunning it is that neither Malkin or Crosby has scored a goal in five games so far, and it would be hilarious if they go off in Game 6 and crumble The 5th Line.
The Jackets made the first push. Crosby and Malkin were playing together from the get-go. Crosby looked like he was getting into some extra shit after the play.
Boone Jenner put the stick up into Sutter along the boards, so the Pens had a pow– Nope. Kunitz went off for a shitty goalie-interference call. Just an awful call.
BOTCHED COLUMBUS GAME PLAN
We found ourselves wondering out loud why the Jackets weren’t throwing every stray piece of trash toward MAF’s net. They either didn’t know about MAF’s history or decided to slow-play it for some reason. Instead of testing Fleury, Columbus managed only 9 shots on net and had limited scoring chances.
After some action, Goc slashed Jenner’s stick in half, so the Jackets had a PP. The ice looked like total shit, but that didn’t stop the Jackets from making it 1-0 late on the PP with Boone Jenner parking his jerk-off face near the post.
So even though Columbus wasn’t trying to test MAF eary and often, Columbus got the first goal, which is usually a good thing, just not in this series.
As the first period ended, the Pens pushed hard for a goal. Joe Vitale performed the first of many dazzling maneuvers where he skated real hard into the zone then went behind the net and lost the puck.
The Jackets had a 2-on-1 early in the second, had another chance, then they were pretty much M.I.A. until the 10:00 mark of the third period.
Meanwhile, the CONSOL crowd was dead and joyless for the beginning of the second.
Vitale changed up his tactic by skating real hard into the zone then stopping real quick and looking around before losing the puck. James Wisniewski, who is playing like a moron this series, perceived Vitale as a threat and cross-checked him facefirst into the glass. So the Pens jumped on the PP. Great little play by Crosby on the PP to get it to Kunitz in front. Pens got a bounce, and Kunitz whacked home a rebound. 1-1.
The crowd was alive again, just like any other hockey crowd in any other city when the home team scores. In Columbus, members of The 5th Line probably started walking in front of their own cannons, because Columbus was on the run.
But then the game hit a big lull. Felt like the same thing happened 15 times in a row: Pens dump in, Columbus retrieves, dumps in, Penguins retrieve, repeat. Joe Vitale thrives in those moments, and he didn’t disappoint, registering a big shot on goal and looking tired after a shift.
James Wisniewski, the great Jackets killer, was going to the box again for a high stick. If we’re picking a goat of the series right now, it’s Wisniewski. How many penalties can one guy take that sets his team back? What an idiot.
On the Pens power play, Bob made some big saves to hold down the fort. It was bedlam.
STAT: Pens’ 21 shots in the second period tied a franchise record for most shots in a playoff period.
If there was one line that was going to score, it was going to be Jokinen – Sutter – Stempniak. It looked like the Pens were rotating Stempniak and Neal in that spot, and that was still working. Either way, those four players were making noise. They had an early chance, and then they did this:
How good of a series has Stempniak had. Great stuff.
— Cameron Christeson (@camchristeson) April 27, 2014
The Jackets had to press, but Dubinsky, exhausted from chasing Malkin/Crosby around and not being that good, could not generate anything.
The Jackets did not have a shot on goal from around the 3:44 mark to the 13:15 mark in the third.
MARCEL GOC WAS A DIFFERENCE MAKER
Goc has seen big games, and we loved his effort in Game 5. Two subtle plays illustrate that.
1. He blew up Wisniewski:
2. Right after that, he skated across the ice and finished a check.
Those are little plays, but they’re a reminder of what he brings to the lineup and what Joe Vitale doesn’t do.
Speaking of which…
With under three minutes to play and nursing a one-goal lead, why is Glass-Vitale-Stempniak on the ice? The Penguins really got lucky because for some reason Iron Dan Bylsma decided to deploy that line on a 44-second shift. It almost cost the Penguins. Tanner Glass had a soft clear, Joe Vitale had visions of some historic breakaway, and Dubinsky eventually almost scored:
Great move by Richards to pull Bob with a lot of time left. The Jackets had the Pens running for a couple shift before that, and he could smell blood.
But the puck wouldn’t bounce their way. Pens had a couple clears. Crosby had a chance to put one in from behind the arc, but he missed. Just imagine what your world would be like right now if Columbus came back and tied/won it after the Crosby missed net.
Thankfully, it didn’t happen. Craig Adams dove for a loose puck after another clear, and Kris Letang — Wait. Is that Kris Letang? What is he doing up fr– Goal. 3-1.
- Great stuff from Goc and Bortuzzo. Was anticipating a strange Bortuzzo penalty for whatever reason, but it never happened.
- Pens had 51 shots, and like 95% of them were legit. They just kept adding up and adding up.
- Buckle Up Baby: 1-0 in the playoffs as far as we know. Surprised the Pens didn’t make him wear a Baierl Automotive t-shirt when he was on the JumboTron.