What’s the best way to take the focus off your goaltender? Play most of the game 180 feet away from him.
With Marc-Andre Fleury feeling the heat after making two crucial mistakes to cough up Game 4, the Penguins responded in Game 5 by carrying the play from beginning to end. Despite the close score, the shot and shot attempt totals tell the real story.
The Penguins finished with 51 shots to the Jackets’ 24. In the second period, most of which was played at a 1-1 deadlock, Pittsburgh outshot Columbus 21-8. After the final buzzer, Pittsburgh had directed 82 shots at the net to Columbus’ 45.
In the first four games of the series, the score was 3-1 before the trailing team mounted a dramatic comeback. This time, no such dramatics. The Penguins, finally, looked like the far better team, as they should have from the outset.
Dan Bylsma set the tone by marching out Evgeni Malkin on the wing with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. The line combined for 15 of the team’s 51 shots in a contest where every Penguin registered at least one shot on goal.
Considering the league-average shooting percentage of around 9 percent, you’d expect Crosby and Malkin’s combined shooting percentage to rise above zero before the series is over. Just a hunch.
Fleury made 23 saves and didn’t look foolish on the goal he did allow. He was the game’s second star. Best of all for Pittsburgh, their goaltender wasn’t the focal point. All eyes were on ‘Flower’ as the puck was first dropped, but Pittsburgh quickly shifted the narrative with its relentless pressure. It was the ideal bounce-back scenario for Fleury, who left the ice with renewed confidence and the series heading back to Columbus with the chance for Pittsburgh to clinch.
“He’s been through so much,” said Crosby after the game when asked about his netminder. “Being in the league as long as he has and dealing with the pressure as long as he has, he was able to turn the page pretty quickly and that’s what you need to do, especially in the playoffs. He showed his experience here tonight.”
Game 6 is Monday night in Columbus.