The finest season in Columbus Blue Jackets franchise history has come to a close at the hands of the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Despite a valiant comeback from a three-goal deficit, a questionable third period call led to a two-goal swing and the quick-strike Pittsburgh Penguins put the Blue Jackets away to end the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals four games to one.
Columbus would play Game 5 without their captain, Nick Foligno, who was scratched after warmups with a lower body injury.
His absence didn't seem to shake the Blue Jackets as they registered the first five shots of the game, once again starting fast out of the gate against the Pens. Josh Anderson nearly made it 1-0 a minute into the game, but was denied by great stickwork.
Pittsburgh would would get things going, hitting a post and generating chances in the Blue Jackets end before Sam Gagner was called for "holding" 11:19 into the game. The call is in quotes, because, well, you be the judge:
Phil Kessel cashed in for the Penguins on the ensuing power play, with a wrister to make it a 1-0 game. That score would hold into the first intermission.
The Penguins did their best to kill the Blue Jackets in the second, burying two quick goals – both from Bryan Rust – but, as they've done all season, the Blue Jackets found a way to make it a game.
Rust's first goal came just 1:07 into the second on a filthy assist from Evgeni Malkin after the center stole the puck from behind the Blue Jackets' net. He notched his second goal just 150 seconds later when the Pens stole the puck in the Blue Jackets' zone and Rust backhanded one past goalie Sergie Bobrovsky.
PPG Paints Arena was rocking with the home team holding a 3-0 lead. At this point, the Penguins had outscored the Blue Jackets 10-2 in second periods of this series.
At 9:30 of the second, William Karlsson got his second goal in as many games to cut the lead to two and provide a spark of life for Columbus:
Three minutes later, Oliver Bjorkstrand's strong board work led to a Blue Jackets power play and Bruce Jenner capitalized, cutting Pittsburgh's lead to one.
|1 of 3||POWER PLAY||2 of 4|
It would be just the second power play goal of the series for the Jackets, who continued their season-ending struggles on the man advantage by going just 2 of 12 against the Pens over five games.
Columbus ended the second period rolling, holding the Pens without a shot in the final 10:54 of the period, despite Pittsburgh earning a power play with 2:08 left in the period.
With one goal separating the teams, the Blue Jackets pushed to open the final period, but a questionable call tipped the game to the Penguins.
As the Blue Jackets were forcing action in Pittsburgh's zone, Alexander Wennberg was run into Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who had moved out of the crease on a play.
Fleury went down, the Blue Jackets ensuing goal from Bjorkstrand was waived off and Wennberg was booked for interference.
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella wouldn't discuss the call after the game.
“You guys watched the game. You don’t need my help with that. I am not talking about the play. Stop baiting me into it. There’s no sense in me having a viewpoint on it. It happened.”
Blue Jackets defensaman Jack Johnson had no qualms addressing the call, however.
“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."
Sidney Crosby made it 4-2, Penguins, with a blast on the man advantage just 5:31 into the third. Fifty-one seconds later, Scott Wilson scored again for the Pens – on a no-look backhander, no less – for the final points of the night.
Bobrovsky finished a rough series, saving 27 of the 32 shots he faced in Game 5. Fluery was brilliant at the other end, saving 49 shots.
Jokes aside, this season was a hell of a lot of fun, both as fans for this team and for us as staff of 1st Ohio Battery. Thanks for allowing us provide quality Blue Jackets coverage for you.
See you all back this September?