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Three periods: Breaking down Penguins vs. Blue Jackets Game 5

| Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 6:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Columbus' Jack Johnson (right) has been among the best blue-line scoring threats in playoff history.



Before their first-round series started, the Penguins probably didn't identify Jack Johnson as one of the Blue Jackets players they'd need to defend most carefully.

Heading into Game 5 on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena, that idea might be changing.

Johnson scored the Blue Jackets' opening goal in the first period of Game 4 on Tuesday night, adding to his already gaudy career postseason totals. In 22 games with Los Angeles and Columbus, he has 21 points.

Among defensemen who have played at least 20 playoff games in the history of the NHL, that's the fourth-best points-per-game average (0.95). The only players ahead of him are Bobby Orr (1.24), Brian Leetch (1.02) and Paul Coffey (1.01).

“Playoff hockey is fun. It's a lot different than the regular season,” Johnson said. “I would like to think that it suits me better. Otherwise, I don't have a big reason for it.”



If the Blue Jackets are to force a Game 6 on Sunday in Columbus, they'll have to buck a couple of heavy historical trends.

First, in the Crosby-Malkin era, the Penguins have failed to complete a sweep in Game 4 of a playoff series twice before. It happened in consecutive rounds against the Rangers and Flyers in 2008. They finished the job in the next game both times.

Second, the Penguins have been dynamite in the game immediately following a regulation loss under coach Mike Sullivan. They're 25-9-1 in the regular season and 7-1 in the playoffs.

“It just shows that we're a resilient group,” defenseman Olli Maatta said.



The Blue Jackets, known for their physical forecheck, averaged 50 hits per game in the first two games of the series and 30 hits per game the next two.

Can the Penguins expect that trend to continue in Game 5? Are they in for an easy night?

Probably not.

The discrepancy is likely because of what off-ice officials in each city consider a hit. Sullivan said he noticed only a small change in Columbus' physicality as the series has gone on.

“I don't think they went out of their way as much to look for bodychecks as they did in the beginning of the series, but they're still an aggressive forechecking team,” Sullivan said. “They still come at us, especially early in the game.”

— Jonathan Bombulie

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