Despite putting 50 shots on the Pittsburgh net, the Blue Jackets couldn’t keep the puck out of their own, and found themselves going down hard after goals from Phil Kessel, Bryan Rust, and Sidney Crosby.
Much like Games 1 and 2 of the series, the Blue Jackets opened up strong, putting heavy pressure on Marc-Andre Fleury, but never put a puck past him, keeping the home crowd involved until the Penguins could get their skates under them.
The Jackets did a decent job of protecting Sergei Bobrovsky in the first half of the period, but things began to turn south when Sam Gagner was whistled for holding.
The Penguins’ special teams were murderous through the entire series, and Game 5 was no exception. Once again Phil Kessel was given time and space to work, and once again he opened the scoring with a snipe from the top of the circles after the Pittsburgh power play opened a lane for him.
The Jackets would rally for another hard push just before the period came to an end, but once again had nothing to show for it, leaving the ice down 1-0 in the first period of their elimination game.
The start of the second period wasn’t much better, with Bryan Rust taking advantages of loose pucks and shaking goaltending to score twice in the first five minutes, and once again the Penguins had a 3-0 lead at home.
Most fans in Columbus started to turn off their TVs, but William Karlsson would bring a few back when he scored his second of the series on a nice little backhander that popped past Fleury’s outstretched leg, followed by Boone Jenner bringing the Jackets within a goal after he swatted the rebound from a Seth Jones shot out of midair and into the net.
That goal would need review to confirm Jenner’s stick was below the crossbar at the point of contact, but was upheld, and suddenly it felt like a whole new game going into the final 20 minutes of play.
For a brief moment, it appeared that the Jackets had tied the game, but the goal was called back and an interference penalty assessed to Alexander Wennberg.
Crosby would convert on the power play chance to pull the game out of reach, and Scott Wilson would drive the final nail into the coffin just under a minute later.
As the teams headed to the handshake lines, the analysis and discussion began, but goaltending has to be the major story of the series: With the exception of Game 4 (and arguably game 3, though his team bailed him out), Fleury outdueled Bob on every possible level, and Bobrovsky’s playoff performance was so off-kilter that it would make more sense to learn he was playing hurt than to find out he was simply unable to rise to the challenge.
As said in the quick takes, this season was an unexpected blessing, and for much of it a very fun ride.
But as much as we might wonder what could have been, the ride is over.
We’ve come to the end of the line.