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Pens eliminate Blue Jackets from first round of NHL playoffs

Rust scores twice in 5-2 PIttsburgh victory

By JASON MACKEY | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS) Published: April 21, 2017 4:00 AM

PITTSBURGH -- When the Penguins blew their chance at a sweep Tuesday in Columbus, coach Mike Sullivan emphasized the need for everyone to reset their mindset.

Sullivan's team had to do that a few times Thursday, but the Penguins ultimately got the result they desired, a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Game 5 of their opening-round series at PPG Paints Arena that pushed the Penguins through to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

After what could turn out to be a substantial break, the Penguins will play either the Maple Leafs or Capitals.

Bryan Rust scored a pair of goals, Evgeni Malkin contributed three assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 49 of 51 shots to make this one happen.

Jake Guentzel led the Penguins in goal-scoring against the Blue Jackets with five, followed by Rust's four.

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Malkin tallied 11 points, matching his career-high for points in a playoff series. He also had that many in six games against the New York Islanders in the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Getting past the 108-point Blue Jackets, the NHL's fourth-best team during the regular season, was hardly easy, with many of the games closer than the score might indicate, and Thursday was no different.

It required the Penguins to navigate several momentum swings.

Columbus had a strong opening five minutes, while the Penguins struggled. After the Penguins built a 3-0 lead in the second period, Columbus pushed and closed to within one.

The final mental reset for the Penguins came early in the third period.

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Oliver Bjorkstrand had appeared to tie it, but the goal was waived off when Alexander Wennberg was called for goaltender interference after he rammed into Fleury's head.

If that wasn't scary enough, Columbus defenseman David Savard cross-checked Patric Hornqvist from behind, driving him into the post, but Sidney Crosby responded by rifling a one-timer from the right circle to make it 4-2 at 5:31.

Scott Wilson tacked on an insurance goal at 6:22 of the final period, inadvertently backhanding the rebound of a Trevor Daley shot past Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (five goals on 32 shots).

After Phil Kessel gave the Penguins an early 1-0 lead, the second period belonged to Rust, who scored on a pair of backhanders 2:43 apart.

Rust's first goal came after Malkin forced a turnover and Rust scrambled to find the rebound. The second was a nifty, no-look shot that carried a little bit of luck with it.

That gives Rust eight goals in his last 13 playoff games dating back to last season. In his past nine elimination games, Rust has seven goals and eight points.

After Rust's second goal, Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson let his frustration boil over and cross-checked Malkin away from the play, earning a two-minute minor.

Columbus center William Karlsson cut the deficit to 3-1 at 9:30 of the first when he backhanded a shot off Fleury's shoulder and in.

The Blue Jackets continued a strong push in the second -- the Penguins were holding onto for dear life by the end -- with Boone Jenner's power-play goal at 12:24 of the period. Fleury made the initial stop, but Jenner swooped in and swatted the rebound past Fleury, a call that stood up to a quick video review.

The Penguins talked for two days leading up to Game 5 about having a better start, about needing to dictate terms, about getting out of their end zone quickly.

Instead, they played the first few minutes like they were focused on a return trip to Columbus.

Fortunately for them, after ceding eight of the first nine shots on goal, they woke up, putting their name to eight of the next nine.

Fleury was particularly impressive while the Penguins righted themselves. He denied Cam Atkinson from point-blank range, then made another stop on Wennberg after Bjorkstrand won a footrace and helped with the setup.

The best save, though, came from defenseman Olli Maatta, who batted a puck out of mid-air early to deny Anderson.

With the Penguins on the power play, Kessel whipped a shot from above the left circle that beat Bobrovsky stick side at 9:07 for his ninth point, and second goal, in his last eight playoff games.

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