PITTSBURGH — Jussi Jokinen scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and the Pittsburgh Penguins topped the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Saturday night to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang also scored for Pittsburgh, which has the upstart Blue Jackets on the verge of elimination with an opportunity to close out the series Monday during Game 6 in Columbus.
It hasn’t been easy for the Penguins, a team considered by many a Stanley Cup contender. Columbus, which began the series searching for its first playoff win in franchise history, twice rallied to stun the heavily favored Penguins.
Boone Jenner scored the lone goal for Columbus, which played its first Game 5 in franchise history.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury recovered from a game-changing gaffe in Game 4 for the victory on Saturday, making 23 saves. Fleury is 4-1 in his last five games after a playoff overtime loss.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 49 shots for the Blue Jackets, who were outshot 51-24.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin still haven’t scored through five playoff games. Crosby, who led the league in scoring with 104 points, hasn’t scored in his last 10 playoff games overall, while Malkin has gone nine without a goal.
The teams were tied at 1 entering the third, but Jokinen touched a backhand rebound past Bobrovsky along the far post 6:16 into the period.
Letang scored an empty-netter with 1:01 to play to seal it.
Both sides endured wild momentum swings through the first four games, all decided by a 4-3 margin where the winning team rallied from a 3-1 deficit every time for the first time in league history. The Penguins twice had an opportunity to take a two-game lead in the series, while Columbus put the Pittsburgh in a two-goal hole two times only to come up short.
The Penguins were seconds away from taking a 3-1 lead during the best-of-seven series in Game 5 when Fleury misplayed a puck behind the net, leading to Brandon Dubinsky’s tying goal that forced overtime and Nick Foligno’s innocent looking wrist shot from the blue line that evaded Fleury and evened the series.
Jenner helped the Blue Jackets score first on Saturday with a power-play goal midway through the opening period. Fleury sprawled to cover a rebound at the top of the crease, but the puck came loose and Jenner jammed a shot home along the near post.
Kunitz tied it with a second-period power-play goal, corralling a bouncing rebound in front of the net and backhanding it past Bobrovsky.