(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will aim to eliminate the upstart Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, as the clubs battle in Monday's Game 6 at Nationwide Arena.
The Penguins, who are seeded second in the East, were tied at 2-2 with Columbus before gaining an edge in the best-of-seven series with Saturday's 3-1 victory in Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh fails to wrap up the series tonight in Columbus, the clubs will play a decisive Game 7 in the Steel City on Wednesday.
Columbus, which had never won a playoff contest before this series, has little margin for error in Game 6. Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu hopes facing elimination can bring the best out of his club.
"I mean, if they're going to push, what are we going to do?," Letestu said. "It's back in our building and our backs are against the wall. When there is adversity, this is the best that this team has played all year. I expect this first elimination game for everybody to play with their hair on fire."
Columbus is 1-1 on home ice in this series, losing Game 3 to the Pens before rebounding with an overtime victory in the next encounter. The Blue Jackets are 1-3 all-time at Nationwide Arena in the postseason.
The Blue Jackets had lost six straight home games against the Penguins before notching a victory in Game 4.
Columbus and Pittsburgh were tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes on Saturday, but Jussi Jokinen scored the eventual game-winner at 6:16 of the third period. Kris Letang added an empty-netter with 1:01 left in regulation to seal the win for the Penguins and put them one victory away from advancing to the second round.
After a rough outing in Game 4, Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury bounced back by making 23 saves for the win. Chris Kunitz had a goal and an assist in the victory.
Sidney Crosby added an assist to give him five helpers in the series, but he has yet to score a goal. After his club grabbed a 3-2 lead on Saturday, the Pens captain talked about the difficulty of closing out a series.
"We have to realize they're going to be as desperate as they've been," Crosby said of tonight's Game 6 battle. "It doesn't get any easier. We know the fourth one is the toughest."
Crosby's teammate Evgeni Malkin also has yet to score over the first five games, but he has four assists.
Boone Jenner scored the one goal for Columbus on Saturday, while Sergei Bobrovsky single-handedly kept his team in the game with a 48-save loss.
"It was one of those performances where you come into an opposing rink, that's a game that your goaltender can steal for you," Columbus head coach Todd Richards said. "We just weren't able to do enough in the offensive zone."
Columbus defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray each returned to the lineup after missing time with lower-body injuries. Tyutin missed the previous two games, while Murray was held out of Game 4.
Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo made his NHL playoff debut in Game 5, replacing injured blueliner Brooks Orpik. Pittsburgh hasn't disclosed the specifics of Orpik's injury and he is questionable for tonight.