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NHL playoffs: Penguins eliminate Columbus

  • Pittsburgh Penguins' Phil Kessel (81) celebrates his goal with Patric Hornqvist (72) and Sidney Crosby (87) during the first period in Game 5 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Gene J. Puskar

  • Columbus Blue Jackets' Josh Anderson (34) can't get a shot to go in over Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during the first period in Game 5 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Gene J. Puskar

  • Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky blocks a shot during the first period in Game 5 of the team's NHL first-round hockey playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Gene J. Puskar

  • Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre-Fleury (29) stops a shot by Columbus Blue Jackets Matt Calvert (11) during the first period in Game 5 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series in Pittsburgh, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Gene J. Puskar


Thursday, April 20, 2017

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby and Scott Wilson scored 51 seconds apart in the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminate the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 5-2 win in Game 5 of their first-round series on Thursday night.

Bryan Rust scored twice for Pittsburgh, Phil Kessel added his second of the playoffs and Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 49 saves. The defending Stanley Cup champions will face the winner of the Toronto-Washington series in the conference semifinals starting next week.

William Karlsson and Boone Jenner scored for the Blue Jackets, but Sergei Bobrovsky stopped just 27 of 32 shots to finish a forgettable series.

Columbus trailed by three in the second period but had a potential tying goal waved off in the third for interference. Pittsburgh responded immediately. Crosby’s one-timer on the power play restored a two-goal lead and Wilson’s backhand less than a minute later finished off the Blue Jackets.

Columbus avoided being swept with a spirited 5-4 win on Tuesday, extending the series by playing with the kind of desperation Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan insisted his team needed if it wanted to get some rest before the second round.

It’s a refrain Sullivan has preached repeatedly over the last couple weeks and once again, the Penguins didn’t listen.

And once again, they were able to get away with it thanks to Fleury. He fended off 15 shots in the first period alone, several of them from point-blank range. It gave the Penguins time to find their legs, and Kessel’s wrist shot from the top of the circle 9:07 into the first put Pittsburgh in front.

When Rust scored twice less than three minutes apart early in the second — both of them on backhand rebounds — the Penguins appeared to be in control.

The Blue Jackets, trying to extend a breakthrough season that included a franchise-record 108 points and the sixth-best record in the league, showed one last flash. Karlsson and Jenner beat Fleury twice in 2:54 at the game’s midway point and Columbus was right back in it.

The surge ended when Fleury flopped to the ground after Alex Wenneberg clipped the goaltender as he fought off a check in the crease five minutes into the third. Columbus coach John Tortorella and the rest of the Blue Jackets bench erupted in anger. Things only got worse for Columbus when Crosby powered a shot from just above the goal line by Bobrovsky. Wilson pushed the lead to three when he casually tapped a backhand by a woefully out of position Bobrovsky.

The Russian led the NHL in goals-against average (2.06) and save percentage (.931) during the regular season but couldn’t keep the league’s highest-scoring team in check. Pittsburgh scored at least three goals in all five games and at least four in four of them to leave the Blue Jackets still searching for their first playoff series victory.

It’s become old hat in Pittsburgh, which will have some time to rest before beginning the next step in its title defense.

NEW YORK 3, MONTREAL 2 — Mika Zibanejad scored at 14:22 of overtime to give the New York Rangers a victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.

Chris Kreider's shot on a rush went off Alexei Emelin's stick right to Zibanejad for a shot into an open side.

The Rangers grabbed a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and will look to advance when they host Game 6 on Saturday.

Jesper Fast and Brady Skjei also scored for New York. Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves.

Artturi Lehkonen scored and set up a goal by Brendan Gallagher in the first period for Montreal. Carey Price had 33 stops.

Mats Zuccarello wasted a glittering chance to give New York an early lead when he couldn't lift the puck over Price's pad from the doorstep in the opening minute.

Montreal then struck first when Lehkonen fought off Marc Staal to put a spin-around shot off the side of the net and score on a wraparound at 12:07.

The Rangers responded with a short-handed goal. Kevin Hayes was in the box for holding when Fast finished a 2-on-2 counterattack after taking a slick feed from Zibanejad at 15:56.

Only 25 seconds later, Andrei Markov slipped a pass into the slot for an unguarded Gallagher to score on a snap shot.

Skjei tied it at 18:28 of the second frame. Rick Nash took the puck to the net and Skjei knocked the rebound into an open side.

Skjei became the first Rangers rookie defenseman with two playoff goals since Brian Leetch had three in 1989.

Montreal forward Phillip Danault hit a post on a short-handed chance in the opening minute and Max Pacioretty was stopped on a breakaway by Lundqvist in a scoreless third period in which New York had most of the sustained pressure.

Kreider had a chance to end the game 10 minutes into overtime but whiffed on a Zibanejad pass at the doorstep.

NASHVILLE 4, CHICAGO 1 — Roman Josi scored twice, Pekka Rinne had 30 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Thursday night to complete a surprising sweep of the Western Conference's top seed.

Colton Sissons also scored and Viktor Arvidsson added an empty-net goal as Nashville completed the franchise's first playoff sweep. Led by Rinne and a terrific defensive performance by their lines and defensive pairings, the Predators limited the high-scoring Blackhawks to just three goals in 13 periods.

Nashville will face the winner of the St. Louis-Minnesota series in the second round. The Blues have a 3-1 lead heading into Game 5 on Saturday in Minnesota.

Chicago became the first No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round since the Los Angeles Kings knocked off the Vancouver Canucks on their way to the Stanley Cup title in 2012. Chicago's second straight first-round exit followed a regular season in which the Blackhawks went 50-23-9 and recorded 109 points, the second-highest total in franchise history.

It was the first time a No. 1 seed was swept in the first round since the NHL adopted its current playoff format in 1994. The Blackhawks had the best record in the Campbell Conference and were the Norris Division's No. 1 seed in 1993 when they got swept by St. Louis in the opening round. That also was the last time the Blackhawks had been swept in a playoff series before Nashville's dominant performance.

The game was scoreless midway through the second period when Ryan Johansen won a faceoff against Marcus Kruger and passed to Ryan Ellis, who sent it to Josi on his right. Josi fired a slap shot from behind the right circle that got between Corey Crawford's legs and sneaked into the left corner of the net at 9:41.

Nashville extended the lead to 2-0 with a bizarre goal at 8:52 of the third. Colton Sissons fired a shot that bounced off the cage and appeared to end up in the area of Crawford's blocker before the puck came loose and rolled into the net. Less than 90 seconds later, Josi beat Crawford on a wrist shot.

Crawford was exceptional for the first 29 1/2 minutes, but he didn't get much help in the final part of the game. He finished with 22 stops.

In an attempt to create a spark, the Blackhawks shuffled their lines and star forward Patrick Kane played a team-high 23:43. They dressed seven defensemen — Michal Kempny made his playoff debut — and nothing worked.

Chicago avoided the shutout when captain Jonathan Toews scored at 14:42 of the third for his first postseason goal since Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Toews had been held without a goal for 12 straight postseason games.

Arvidsson wrapped up the sweep with an empty-netter with 1:48 remaining.