Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save on the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in the first period of Game 5 Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thunderous chants of "Fleury, Fleury, Fleury" rained down as a spotlight shone onto Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the pregame player introductions Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
It was Fleury's late-game follies Wednesday night that gave away Game 4 in Columbus, Ohio. This time, Fleury had a chorus of 18,000 at his back, and the sights were trained on Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the man crouched in the crease 180 feet down the ice.
Earlier in the day, Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray described the Penguins' offensive attack as one that "goes into the zone like madmen." It wears on you, he said.
And, true to Murray's word, Bobrovsky was bombarded in the Penguins' 3-1 win Saturday. He made 48 saves but was felled when he let a rebound trickle away six minutes into the third period. Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen buried the winner over the sprawling Bobrovsky.
"Bob played unreal," center Ryan Johansen said.
"He was fantastic," winger R.J. Umberger said.
"He was the reason we were in this game," center Brandon Dubinsky said.
Despite Bobrovsky's heroics, the series, swaying on the hinges of this pivotal Game 5, swung back toward the Penguins.
The Penguins flung 51 shots on net, the Blue Jackets just 24.
After the game, it was suggested to Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards that perhaps the shot total was a little misleading. It wasn't really all that lopsided, right?
"Oh no," Richards said. "It felt like 51 shots."
In a series in which being staked to an early lead seems the greatest curse -- the team that scores the opening goal is 0-5 -- Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets defense found itself protecting a 1-0 lead after Boone Jenner scored about midway through the opening period.
But when the Penguins offense found its feet, the ice tilted. At the start of the second period, Richards said, the Penguins "took it to another level."
"It's one of those performances when you're coming into an opposing rink, that's a game your goaltender can steal for you," Richards said. "We just weren't able to do enough in the offensive zone."
The Penguins attack was aimed straight at Bobrovsky, trying to rattle the 25-year-old Russian with 32 wins under his belt this season.
"They were going to the net hard," Richards said. "Obviously it was something they had talked about to make it hard on Bobrovsky. There were some bumps here and there. It was how they wanted to play the game."
The Penguins' 21 second-period shots tied a franchise postseason record for shots in a period. The previous mark was set against the New York Islanders April 15, 1975.
The aggressiveness finally paid off. Chris Kunitz knocked home a rebound on a power play in the second period, and the Penguins kept the pedal down until Jokinen notched the winner.
The problem clearly wasn't Bobrovsky. Dubinsky said the Blue Jackets' critical error was being unprepared for the Penguins to turn up the pressure and physicality on offense. The Penguins' playoff experience showed, he said, as did the Blue Jackets' youth.
"I don't think we were good enough from start to finish, from top to bottom, except for Bob," Dubinsky said. "I've said it once, and I'll say it again: we always find a way. We're a resilient group, and we're confident, and I know we'll get better."
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
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