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Rossi: Stars are born when a series becomes best-of-three

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner celebrates his first-period goal against the Penguins during Game 3 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Monday, April 21, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner celebrates his first-period goal against the Penguins during Game 3 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Monday, April 21, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' James Neal plays against the Flyers on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' James Neal plays against the Flyers on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Consol Energy Center.

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Did you know?

On Jan. 11 at Winnipeg, Boone Jenner became the first Blue Jackets rookie to score a winning goal on a penalty shot

By the numbers

3 —Goals scored by the Penguins' Brandon Sutter in his last seven playoff games.

29:36 — The Blue Jackets' Jack Johnson's average ice time against the Penguins.

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, April 25, 2014, 8:15 p.m.
 

By the fifth game, a Stanley Cup playoff series already has taken many turns. This one between the Penguins and Blue Jackets has few rivals. It is the first in NHL history to feature blown multiple-goal leads, and these players seem poised to play a big role.

Boone Jenner

If the Penguins are not already sick of him — they should be — they probably do not fancy the prospect of facing Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner five times again next season.

Yeah, that should be fun given the confidence this postseason will give Jenner no matter the outcome of Round 1.

He is only 20, and there is room to add onto that 6-foot-2/208-pound frame. Already, though, Jenner looks built for playoff hockey. Against the Penguins, he has made a habit of working his way to the front of the net — and basically moving only after the whistle.

He has scored two goals and delivered 20 hits, and he has proven a willing and successful agitator. Jenner fills a role, does the dirty work and brings a spark. He plays with an edge.

He does for the Blue Jackets what Max Talbot once did for the Penguins.

Big goals in tight series usually go to guys who are known within their respective markets, not on the national stage.

They go to guys who seem predestined for a magical playoff moment. They go to guys who get it.

Jenner seems like that kind of guy. At the very least, so far, he seems like the kind of guy for whom the Penguins might not have a solution. Jenner is going to the net. He's made that clear.

He might not score the Blue Jackets' next big goal, but he is a good bet to be the reason goalie Marc-Andre Fleury cannot see the shot that puts the Penguins in a big series hole.

Brandon Sutter

Life works in funny ways.

Almost two months ago, Brandon Sutter was viewed as replaceable by Penguins management. GM Ray Shero sought a third-line upgrade before the trade deadline and even acquired Marcel Goc just in case.

Shero never made one of his patented big deadline deals. Goc was injured. Sutter suddenly finds himself as the most productive playoff center for a club that has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

A series-clincher would seem fitting, if not fated.

Jack Johnson

One of Sidney Crosby's best friends might just ruin Crosby's MVP season.

Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson has owned Round 1 — and given the Penguins apparent inability to mark him, he is as likely a candidate as any to bring an end to their season.

He has done it offensively with three goals and defensively with 18 blocked shots, and his presence has been unmistakable. Johnson oozes confidence, and it's rubbing off on his upstart club.

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