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Blue Jackets visit Penguins for Game 5 of deadlocked series

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The Sports Network
4/26/2014 11:53:47 AM
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The surprising Columbus Blue Jackets will try to grab their first lead of the Eastern Conference first round series when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for tonight's Game 5 at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Blue Jackets entered this series against the Metropolitan Division champions as heavy underdogs, but they sit tied with the Penguins at two wins apiece. Columbus has arrived at this point with a pair of overtime victories, including a 4-3 triumph in Wednesday's Game 4 clash at Nationwide Arena that gave the franchise its first home playoff win.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, hopes to rebound after coughing up an early 3-0 lead in Wednesday's game. Holding leads has been an issue for both clubs in this postseason encounter. According to Elias Sports Bureau, this series is the first in league history in which four consecutive games have been won by a team which has trailed by at least two goals.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 42 saves in Game 4, but the Penguins goaltender is aiming for a bounce-back performance on Saturday. The veteran backstop made a stickhandling blunder to allow Columbus to tie the game in the final minute of regulation before yielding a weak goal to Nick Foligno in overtime.

"He was our best player in the (Game 4) last night. Unfortunately a mistake, the bouncing puck behind the net, cost us in the last 30 seconds of the game," Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said of Fleury. "He was our best player in the game. He has to rebound now from that, as does our team."

Although he helped Pittsburgh win a Stanley Cup title in 2009, Fleury's postseason struggles for the Pens over the last few seasons have been well- documented. Last spring, he was benched in the middle of Pittsburgh's first- round series win over the New York Islanders and replaced by Tomas Vokoun as the starter for the rest of the playoffs.

Vokoun is still with the Pittsburgh organization, but hasn't played an NHL game since last spring due to ongoing issues with a blood clot. Fleury's current backup Jeff Zatkoff has never played in the postseason.

Fleury isn't Pittsburgh's only problem in this series, as the club is still waiting for superstar forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to record their first goals of the 2014 playoffs. Both players have four assists through four games.

"(Crosby and Malkin) are our best players," Bylsma said. "We need more from our whole team. We need more from them."

Foligno, who sat out the first two games of this series due to injury, tallied the game-winner 2:49 into OT on Wednesday. He carried the puck up the left wing through the neutral zone in a 1-on-1 with Pens defenseman Matt Niskanen, then released a long-distance shot from above the left circle. The puck fluttered toward Fleury and dipped below his glove hand before hitting the net and ending the game.

"I didn't think it would actually work, but it ended up working, so I'm thanking my lucky stars tonight," Foligno said.

Fleury also was responsible for a miscue leading to the Blue Jackets' tying goal with less than 24 seconds remaining in regulation. He headed behind his net to play a Jack Johnson dump-in, but the puck hopped over his stick and found Ryan Johansen, who dished into the slot for a successful shot by Brandon Dubinsky.

In a performance that was the polar opposite of Fleury, Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky started the game slowly and finished strong. Last season's Vezina Trophy winner clocked in with 22 stops after giving up the game's first three scores in a span of just over five minutes in the first period.

Johansen and Boone Jenner notched the other goals for the Blue Jackets, who had gone 0-3 in Ohio's capital in the postseason before Wednesday's triumph.

Craig Adams, Chris Kunitz and James Neal tallied for the Penguins, who will try to bounce back with a better effort tonight on home ice to regain a lead in this best-of-seven battle.

"The work, compete and battle level has been the most troubling thing from our team," Bylsma said. "That's been the thing throughout this series that's been the most troubling. That's got to be raised up to a level that is necessary at this time of year, this type of hockey, playoff hockey. We have ourselves in a series now. It's 2-2, best-of-three. We have to have that in our game and in our team if we are going to win this series."

Prior to Game 4, the Blue Jackets scratched defenseman Ryan Murray with a right foot injury suffered when he took a shot to the skate in practice. Murray is questionable for Game 5, as is fellow defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who could be back in the lineup Saturday after missing the past two outings with an upper-body issue.

Pittsburgh was 28-9-4 in the Steel City during the regular season, while the Blue Jackets were 21-17-3 as the visiting team. Columbus' road win in Game 2, a 4-3 double-overtime victory, marked just the third time the Jackets won in Pittsburgh over 11 all-time meetings.

Game 6 of this series is scheduled for Monday in Columbus. If needed, a decisive seventh game is set for Wednesday at CONSOL Energy Center.

Boone Jenner (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)

Blue Jackets at Penguins

GAME NOTES

each game team scoring first has lost
each game team has blown 2G lead and lost (first time in playoff history)
each game has been 4-3
Series PP: PIT 4/21, CBJ 5/20
no team has won 2 straight in series
PIT (Series tied 2-2):
5 straight home games decided by 1G, 4 of them by a score of 4-3
11/17 on PK last 4 home games (reg+post)
Martin (2A) in each game
Crosby 0G last 9 playoff games, Malkin 0G last 8 playoff games
CBJ (Series tied 2-2):
outshot PIT in both games in PIT
3/10 on PP in PIT in series
Dubinsky (1G, 5A) has a PT in all 4 games
The Foligno's (Mike/Nick) 4th father/son combo with playoff OTG
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