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|Malkin's three goals help Penguins eliminate pesky Blue Jackets.
29 апреля 2014 года. Associated Press. Concord Monitor
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick and the Pittsburgh Penguins almost blew a four-goal lead before beating the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3, last night to clinch their first-round playoff series in six games.
The Blue Jackets, closer to making tee times than thinking about a Game 7, scored three times in a 4:52 span in the third period to turn up the pressure on the Penguins.
Pittsburgh awaits the winner of the New York-Philadelphia series, with the Rangers leading 3-2 going into tonight's Game 6.
Brandon Sutter also scored and Matt Niskanen had two assists as the Penguins became the first team in the series to score first and win - but barely. Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves.
Fedor Tyutin, Artem Anisimov and Nick Foligno scored late to thrill a crowd of 19,189 who stood and roared for the final 4 minutes.
The Penguins were hard-pressed to just fight off the upstart Blue Jackets after goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who also had 24 saves, was pulled for an extra attacker with under 2 minutes left.
Columbus's Matt Calvert was wide with a potential tying shot with 3:30 left.
It was Malkin's 10th career three-goal game. He hadn't scored in the first 332:52 of the series, then scored three in a span of 26:11.
The Blue Jackets, one of the NHL's youngest teams, found consolation in earning the first two playoff victories in the franchise's 13 seasons.
Malkin, who ended a nine-game playoff goal drought, made up for lost time by scoring twice in a 4:02 span of the opening period.
Chris Kunitz won a puck battle along the short boards and then slid a pass from the left corner to Malkin, who was alone at the edge of the right circle. He settled the puck and then beat Bobrovsky high on the stick side at the 9:11 mark.
Foligno, who had the Game 4 overtime winner the previous time the teams played in Columbus, went sent to the penalty box for a roughing penalty before Malkin scored again.
Columbus's Derek MacKenzie appeared to have cleared the puck, but Niskanen got a stick on it to keep it in the offensive zone. The puck ended up going to Malkin, who unleashed a hard wrister from the high slot with Kunitz blocking Bobrovsky's view.
Fleury didn't get much work in the opening 20 minutes, but made a big save when he stymied MacKenzie, who had intercepted a Craig Adams pass in the Penguins' end and squeezed off a shot from close range.
A Blue Jackets power play had just ended when defenseman James Wisniewski mishandled the puck at the blue line and Sutter grabbed it. He was all alone streaking down the left wing, faked the forehand and then slipped a backhand into the net.
Malkin scored his third goal at the 15:22 mark of the second period, benefiting from a 2-on-1 break after taking a pass along the left wall from Jussi Jokinen. The big Russian glanced at James Neal to his right while cruising past the lone Blue Jacket back, defenseman Jack Johnson, then ripped the shot past Bobrovsky to make it 4-0.
The fans were up in arms after Tanner Glass leveled Wisniewski on a hit in the corner in the second period and was called for boarding.
Early in the third, Columbus' Blake Comeau got the best of Beau Bennett on a check and the Pens' Joe Vitale then initiated knee-to-knee contact with Comeau. Vitale was called for interference, but was in pain on the ice and did not return.
Tyutin's shot from the right dot ended Fleury's shutout streak at 97:26 - since the Blue Jackets took a 1-0 lead in the first period of Game 5.
But then Anisimov scored from the left point with 6:06 remaining to make it 4-2 and Foligno redirected a Tyutin shot to cut the lead to a goal with 4:47 left.
The Penguins were pushed to the limit to hold on the rest of the way.
Credit: Associated Press
Ron Cook: Malkin pops out of slump
Cook, RonView Profile. McClatchy - Tribune News Service
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Opposing teams in a Stanley Cup playoff series rarely agree on anything, but the Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets found common ground heading into Game 6 Monday night at Nationwide Arena.
"It's tough to think that you're going to keep them shut out. I don't know if you can do that. They're too good. Those are dangerous guys," Columbus coach Todd Richards said of Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
"I think it's a matter of time before one of 'em pops one in," Penguins center Brandon Sutter said.
It didn't take Malkin long to make Richards and Sutter seem clairvoyant. He scored his first goal of the series to give the Penguins an early 1-0 lead, but he hardly stopped there. Good thing, darn good thing. Malkin popped in two more goals for his second career postseason hat trick to give the Penguins a 4-0 lead in the second period, a cushion they, almost unbelievably, needed after the Blue Jackets scored three goals in a span of 4:52 in the final 10 minutes of the game. Somehow, the Penguins survived for a 4-3 win that sent them into the second round of the playoffs against the New York Rangers or Philadelphia Flyers.
Malkin sounded as if he didn't know whether to celebrate his big game or cry about the rough finish that brought back horrible nightmares from the Penguins' late collapse in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4.
"We win this game, but, in the NHL playoffs, you never win when you don't play 60 minutes," he said.
Think about it.
It makes a lot of sense.
A lot of hockey experts said the Penguins couldn't take out the Blue Jackets without getting a goal from Crosby or Malkin. The Penguins are thrilled they didn't have to put that theory to a test. Crosby didn't score a goal in the series and hasn't scored in 11 consecutive playoff games, going back to Game 4 of the Ottawa series a year ago. But Malkin ended a nine-game postseason slump with his goals.
"It's more important that we win the game," he said.
Linemate Chris Kunitz, like Sutter, said it was just a matter of time before Malkin scored.
"If you know Geno and have seen him struggle, you wouldn't think that this was one of those times," Kunitz said. "He still was confident playing with the puck. He blocks shots. He tries to mix it up. He hangs on to the puck. It's become such a puck-possession game and he's great at that ...
"Whenever we need goals from him, they're going to come."
Malkin got the first one at 9:11 of the first period, banging in a sweet centering pass from Kunitz. He gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal four minutes later after a pass from Crosby with Kunitz screening Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He made it 4-0 at 15:22 of the second period, keeping the puck on a 2-on-1 break with James Neal and firing a wrist shot by Bobrovsky.
"He's got so much talent," teammate Craig Adams said of Malkin. "Obviously, it was good for him to score that first one early. From then on, you could see that he was really feeling it."
Who knew at the time that Malkin's third goal would turn out to be the game-winner?
"A win is a win, but we need to talk about how we finished," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
For the second consecutive game, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma played Malkin with Crosby and Kunitz. He loved the results -- Malkin's three goals and an assist each for Crosby and Kunitz.
"They were tough to handle," Bylsma said of his big-three line. "They took over and were dominant."
Certainly, Malkin was. He delivered the 14th postseason hat trick in Penguins history. His first came in Game 2 against Carolina in the Eastern Conference final in 2009. The Penguins went on to win the Cup that season and Malkin was named Conn Smythe Award winner as playoffs MVP. The team hopes the story this season ends the same way.
But first things first.
The Rangers or the Flyers.
The Penguins can't win that series without a goal from Crosby, can they?
"His will come," Adams said. "I wouldn't bet against him."
The Penguins love to think so.