Momentum is a beautiful thing and a fickle beast. It ended up being both for the Blue Jackets in Game 5.
They fell behind 3-0 in a must-win game at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, but managed to chip away and pull within a goal after two periods of play. Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t have his best game but still, the Blue Jackets got huge second period goals from William Karlsson and Boone Jenner to give themselves a brand new game with a period left.
It was anyone’s game, but momentum tilted the game back into the Penguins’ favor with a controversial and frustrating sequence early in the third period.
Alexander Wennberg’s line hadn’t done much offensively in the series, but they appeared to strike for a potentially huge goal. Until they didn’t.
Wennberg drove the net and was hooked by Penguins forward Scott Wilson, who ended up pushing Wennberg into Marc-Andre Fleury and toppling him over in the crease. Bjorkstrand found the puck and put it into the net, but referee Eric Furlatt emphatically waved it off, much to the dismay of the Blue Jackets.
Upon further review, the call was probably not the right one:
What came of the call only added insult to injury for the Blue Jackets, who were skating with little margin for error and with their season in the balance.
Wennberg was assessed a goaltender interference penalty, putting the Penguins on the power play, which provided some breathing room after the collars were a little tight in the second intermission. Pittsburgh, as it had all series long, capitalized on a timely opportunity to put a dent in the Blue Jackets’ rally and it was Sidney Crosby who put the game on ice.
“I have no intention to hit Fleury…it’s a game-changer right there,” Wennberg said. “It’s the ref’s call and you just have to live with it.”
The Penguins captain snapped a sharp angle shot under the cross bar on Bobrovsky, boosting the lead to 4-2 and stunting the short-lived Blue Jackets surge. The wind definitely came out of their sails after that convoluted sequence, and 51 seconds later, Wilson tapped in a rebound that merely twisted the knife.
Jack Johnson didn’t want to go down the road of blaming officiating, but pointed out how the call/non-call and ensuing Penguins power play goal impacted the game.
“We thought we made it 3-3…and next thing you know, it’s 4-2,” Johnson said.
“Players can’t give an opinion on calls anyway, it just gets us in trouble. Looking back on the game, that’s probably the turning point in the game for us. Things aren’t always going to go your way – you have to be mentally tough enough to stay the course.”
John Tortorella politely declined to comment or elaborate.
"You guys watched the game. You don’t need my help with that," Tortorella told reporters after the game. "I am not talking about the play. Stop baiting me into it. There’s no sense in me having a viewpoint on it."