Penguins seeking a repeat of Game 5 formula vs. Columbus
The Penguins finally buckled down in Game 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, providing a blueprint for ending the series Monday and moving on to a second-round encounter with the Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers.
Should they fail, Game 7 against Columbus will be Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
The typical ingredients required for playoff success — physical play, responsibility with the puck and, more than anything, defensive stinginess — all were on display in Game 5 even though the Penguins played without injured defenseman Brooks Orpik, one of their better players in this series.
“That was our most complete game as a defensive group,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “We did our job, and it allowed the forwards to play their game better.”
The Penguins outshot the Blue Jackets, 51-24, in Game 5, and while their forwards bombarded Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, they accounted for their defensive zone before focusing on offense.
That hasn't always been their way in the postseason — recent series against the Flyers and Islanders have compiled plenty of evidence that the Penguins instinctively think offense first — but was paramount to their success Saturday.
Penguins coaches were delighted with the play of the defensemen. It remains unknown if the group will have to play without Orpik, who was noticeably limping Saturday, for the remainder of the series.
“It hurts,” Niskanen said. “He logs a lot of minutes. He has the toughest assignment of checking the other team's first line every night. That's tough to replace. But I think we've proven this year that we're capable of having other guys step in and still be an effective team.”
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo was the man to replace Orpik and, by all accounts, did so impressively. He and defenseman Rob Scuderi — they seldom played together before — were solid throughout the game.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Scuderi said of Bortuzzo. “He brings a lot of energy. ... I think I can speak for the room where everyone's glad to see him do well.”
The duo of Kris Letang and Paul Martin also thrived, consistently playing with forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who played on the same line.
The coaches decided to leave Niskanen and Olli Maatta together. They each responded by playing more than 20 minutes of almost flawless hockey.
Columbus' only goal came on a power play.
Earlier in the series, Penguins coaches weren't pleased with the defensive effort from the forwards.
In fact, the coaching staff tabulated 10 odd-man rushes for Columbus in Game 1, largely because all three Penguins forwards were trapped in the offensive zone.
Starting with what could have been a playoff-altering approach Saturday, Penguins forwards were there to help the defensemen.
“Our forwards backtracked really hard,” Niskanen said. “If our forwards are having a good game (defensively), it makes a defenseman's job a lot easier.”
The Penguins return to a building that hasn't witnessed their finest postseason defense. In two games at Nationwide Arena during this series, they've allowed seven goals.
“I think they are going to give us their best,” Bylsma said. “We have to match that, or exceed that.”
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.