Flower Power: Fleury thriving in familiar spot for Penguins

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The Blue Jackets posted a franchise-record 108 points, but they’re still searching for the first playoff series victory in team history after failing to keep the NHL’s highest-scoring team in check.

He saved his best for last, stopping 49 shots in a series-clinching, 5-2 victory that vaulted him into first place on the Penguins’ all-time postseason wins list (57) and undoubtedly sent John Tortorella muttering all the way back to Columbus.

Despite a last gasp from Columbus in the second period, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Blue Jackets 5-2 Thursday at PPG Paints Arena to win a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

During the second period of Game 3 of the Blue Jackets’ first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Werenski took a puck to the face while defending a shot by Phil Kessel.

Game 4 saw the Columbus cut into that 3-0 series lead and after the game, many pundits had this turning into a series.

The Rangers controlled the play for most of the second period as the Canadiens had only one shot on goal in the first 11 minutes. Had it not been for some terrible luck, an injury to rookie sensation Zach Werenski and star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky going cold at the worst possible time, they might have upset them. “Now we’ll figure out how to go about our business and try to manage the series here”. “But moving forward, I really haven’t given it much thought, where we’re going to go”. “I’m proud of them”. For the Blue Jackets, there’s the offseason to figure out how to close the gap with Pittsburgh.

There also becomes the question of what another loss or two does to the Penguins’ goaltending situation. That’s an average of more than five a game. More importantly, the unheralded centerman, not usually known for his faceoff prowess, won 12 of 22 draws and was credited with containing Pittsburgh’s red-hot “Sid and the Kids” line, which registered no points and was minus-2. It was Zibanejad’s third career playoff goal.

Markus Nutivaara scored for Columbus in his National Hockey League playoff debut, helping the Blue Jackets stave off elimination. We don’t like to have to make him work that hard. He is a favourite to win his second Vezina Trophy.

“When [Murray] went down before Game 1, you got a guy stepping in who’s done it before, great goalie, regardless of what happened in last year’s playoffs”, said defenseman Ron Hainsey. “He has had a tremendous year”. This is Ovechkin’s best chance at the Stanley Cup, and everyone knows it.

The Rangers grabbed a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and will look to advance when they host Game 6 on Saturday. The Pens trailed 3-1 after the first period, but goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was solid after that rough start to outplay counterpart Sergei Bobrovsky for the third straight time.

Tortorella’s influence on the young Blue Jackets can’t be overstated. Game one and game four just had the Penguins shut out in the first. They skate well, have good hands and hockey sense.

It represented a stark departure for the Penguins, who had stretches in the second half of the season where they seemed to lose a new player every game.

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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