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Resilient Penguins Rally Past Blue Jackets 5-4; Kessel Nets 2



Penguins celebrate: Photo Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire

Conor Sheary scored one of those clutch goals for which the Pittsburgh Penguins have become infamous and Phil Kessel scored a pair of goals including the overtime winner. In a potential preview of a First Round matchup, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in overtime 5-4 at Nationwide Arena.

With the loser point, the Columbus Blue Jackets officially qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Penguins rallied, rallied, rallied, and rallied again, Thursday. The came back four times.

Trailing 4-3 with six minutes remaining, Sheary beat the Blue Jackets out of the Penguins zone for a contested breakaway. Sheary’s initial shot was stopped by Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky but after being knocked to the ice. Sheary (18) reached through defender’s legs to chip the puck into the net.

“We have such great leadership. These guys are their best when the stakes are high,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.

In overtime, Kessel did what he was born to do. Kessel (33) raced down the left wing and ripped a one-footed wrister from the left wing circle past Bobrovsky for the winner.

The first period was well played and back and forth.

Midway through the period, the Penguins penalty kill set up their power play. Penguins winger Tom Kuhnhackl charged past Blue Jackets point man Seth Jones. Jones tripped Kuhnhackl as he lunged to prevent Kuhnhackl’s breakaway.

Trailing 1-0, the Penguins power play made good on their first chance. Kessel rushed through the neutral zone, backed up the Blue Jackets penalty killers and whipped a wrister through former Penguins defenseman Ian Cole’s legs. Bobrovsky didn’t track the puck well and the Penguins earned some chirping material against the popular Cole.

A couple minutes later, Columbus retook the lead when grinding forward Matt Calvert stormed the Penguins zone one on several. Calvert cut inside Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta to the slot and roofed a backhand over goalie Matt Murray.

Penguins ball of energy Patric Hornqvist scored his 10th goal in 13 games and he has a marker in four straight games. The Penguins “second” line, Carl HagelinEvgeni Malkin-Hornqvist frequently applied aggressive zone pressure and the line pinned the Blue Jackets in the defensive zone. In the slot, Hornqvist (28) slammed a fluttering puck towards the net.

“They’re a team that really feeds off getting goals here, they get momentum. They ended up scoring and going ahead a number of times,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. “We were able to come back and get some big goals from guys.”

The Blue Jackets scored the lone goal in the second period.

Six minutes into the second period, the Blue Jackets assumed lead with the power-play goal when a new face and a far too familiar face connected. Blue Jackets trade deadline acquisition Tomas Vanek made a nearly blind pass into the slot for an uncovered Boone Jenner. Jenner quickly snapped it past Murray.

The third period was as entertaining and well played as the first period.

Just a few minutes into the third period, Kris Letang tied the game with a power-play goal. Letang (9) picked the top corner to the far side, over Bobrovsky’s blocker.

The Blue Jackets desperately needed a point Thursday lest they let their invitation to the Stanley Cup playoffs linger.

“Every shot was a scoring chance, it seemed like. It was a tough game to play in as a goalie,” said Murray. “Loved our resiliency and resolve as a team to come back from that. Good team win.”

Midway through the period, Pierre Luc Dubois muscled past Brian Dumoulin and steered the puck towards the net. Cam Atkinson (24) stuffed the puck across the goal line from the crease.

The Blue Jackets scored just five minutes into the game. Zach Werenski softly backhanded the puck past Murray, who should have easily stopped it. Murray stopped 26 of 30. The Penguins peppered Bobrovsky, who stopped 39 of 43 shots.

The Penguins power play was two for three, but their penalty kill was also two for three. The team will have a chance to reach 100 points and gain home-ice advantage in the First Round if they beat the Ottawa Senators Friday night.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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