NHL Playoffs: Penguins move on thanks to Malkin hat trick
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t easy, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are moving on to second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Penguins got a hat trick from center Evgeni Malkin, then held on in the final minutes to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 Monday before 19,189 in Nationwide Arena.
Pittsburgh won the series in six games. The finale marked the only time the team that scored first emerged victorious.
“We have a rivalry born between the Penguins and the Blue Jackets,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “They gave us everything we could handle.”
Malkin scored the second postseason hat trick of his career and the 13th in Penguins franchise history. His trio of goals, coupled with a breakaway goal by center Brandon Sutter, gave Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead at 15:22 of the second period.
The Blue Jackets scored three goals in the span of 4:52 in the third period.
“We talked in the second period that it wasn’t over,” Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. “We just needed a spark. We needed something to happen, something to go our way to get it going, but we never stopped believing.”
Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin scored a short-handed goal at 10:21, center Artem Anisimov scored a power-play goal on a wrister from the left circle at 13:54, and left winger Nick Foligno redirected a Tyutin wrister at 15:13 to make it 4-3.
“We knew if we could score one or two they’d tighten up, start grippin’ their sticks and go into prevent defense,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said. “We were coming in waves.”
Columbus came back to win Game 2 after trailing 3-1, then rallied to win Game 4 after trailing 3-0. However, the Blue Jackets’ final comeback attempt fell short.
The Jackets nearly tied it in the final minute, but a backhand flip by Dubinksy sailed inches wide of the net.
“The last 10 minutes were tough,” Penguins left winger James Neal said. “We knew the building was going to be loud, we knew they’d give it all with their backs against the wall. They played us tough every game and all series long. They were pushing right to the final minute to tie it up.”
The Penguins next will meet the winner of the ongoing series between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers lead the Flyers three games to two.
Malkin went scoreless in nine consecutive playoff games — dating back to a four-game sweep by the Boston Bruins last spring — before busting out Monday.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 24 saves.
Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky also stopped 24 shots. He was under constant duress in the early part of the game, before the Penguins eased up.
Malkin scored at 9:11 of the first period, taking a pass from left wing Chris Kunitz and putting in a shot from the doorstep.
He made it 2-0 at 13:13 of the first when he scored on a wrister from the slot on the power play.
The Penguins pushed the lead to 4-0 in the second period thanks to two breakaways.
Sutter made it 3-0 only 34 seconds into the second. He jumped on a turnover by Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski and beat Bobrovsky with a backhand flip over the goalie’s right pad.
Malkin cashed in again at 15:22 of the third, when he and left winger Jussi Jokinen got behind the Blue Jackets’ defense for an easy look. Malkin snapped a wrister through Bobrovsky’s glove to make it 4-0.
The win sends Pittsburgh into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fifth time in seven seasons. The Penguins were swept by Boston in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets head into the offseason after only their second playoff berth in franchise history.
The Blue Jackets set a franchise record with 43 wins and 93 points during the regular season, and they also earned the first playoff win and first home playoff win in franchise history.
NOTES: Penguins D Brooks Orpik missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury. Coach Dan Bylsma would not elaborate on Orpik’s status moving forward. ... Blue Jackets RW R.J. Umberger missed the game with a shoulder injury sustained near the end of Game 5 in Pittsburgh. Umberger dealt with several upper-body injuries since the end of the regular season, and he missed Game 1. ... Blue Jackets RW Jared Boll played for the first time since Game 1.