Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 3
Some news and notes, facts and quotes from the Penguins’ 4-3 victory over Columbus in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series Monday night at Nationwide Arena:
*** The Penguins’ victory clinched a place for them in the second round, where they will meet the survivor of the New York Rangers-Philadelphia series. The Rangers have a 3-2 lead going into Game 6 Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
*** Evgeni Malkin, who had failed to score in his previous nine playoff game, recorded his second career hat trick, scoring the Penguins’ first, second and fourth goals. “When he got that first one, you could see it,” right winger James Neal said. “It builds your confidence. You knew how bad he wanted to score. He got that one off his back and took over the game.”
*** Neal is Malkin’s usual linemate, but for the second game in a row, Malkin played primarily with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Crosby failed to get a goal for the 10th playoff game in a row, but Malkin’s breakout performance bodes well for Round 2. “Of course, when you score, you feel so much better,” Malkin said. “I hope in the second round, I start scoring in the first game.”
*** The Penguins built a 4-0 lead by 15:22 of the second period, but gave up three goals ina span of four minutes, 52 seconds in the third period to turn what looked to be a laugher into an absolute thriller that wasn’t settled until time expired. “It was tougher than it should have been,” Crosby said. “It wasn’t easy, seeing 1-2-3 go in like that.”
*** The Penguins lost two centers with injuries of unknown severity during the second half of the game. Brandon Sutter, who had an excellent series while alternating between the second and third lines, had to be helped to the locker room after a run-in with Columbus winger Nick Foligno near the left-wing boards in the middle of the second and Joe Vitale departed after a knee-on-knee collision with Blake Comeau early in the third. Coach Dan Bylsma said after the game that he did not have an update on either.
*** Penguins winger Jussi Jokinen, on their late-game lapse after playing 2 ½ periods of excellent two-way hockey: “The first 45, 50 minutes, we played great hockey. That’s how we need to play.”
*** The Blue Jackets’ comeback was sparked when the Penguins gave up their third shorthanded goal of the series at 10:21 of the third. Crosby said the Penguins were “a little too nonchalant on the power play,” and that “we did give them life with that shorthanded goal.”
*** Penguins D Matt Niskanen, on Malkin’s signature performance and the dry spell that preceded it: “You could see it was coming. He was trying like hell. He was doing the right things, too. I think he’s been real conscious of trying to play a responsible two-way game, too.”
*** Malkin, asked how satisfying it was to record a hat trick after his long drought: “More important, we win the game and the series is done.”
*** Columbus out-hit the Penguins, 54-22.
*** Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky, on the outcome of the series: “It’s tough to have that type of feeling right now because we believed in here that we could beat that team. Right now, I still believe we can beat that team.”
*** Kunitz’ assist on Malkin’s first goal moved him past Martin Straka and into ninth place on the team’s all-time playoff points list.
*** Five of the six games in this series ended 4-3. The lone exception was the Penguins' 3-1 victory in Game 5.
*** Columbus winger Nick Foligno, on the future of the Blue Jackets: “We’re really proud of the steps we’ve taken, but we know we have a long ways to go. We see it in a team like Pittsburgh where they just keep coming, keep coming. And that’s a team that’s won. We can learn from them.”
*** The Penguins are 9-7 in Game 6 when they lead a playoff series, 3-2, including a 6-6 mark on the road.
*** Bylsma, on the Blue Jackets: “We got a rivalry born here. They gave us everything we could handle. They were an extremely tough first-round opponent.”
*** The Penguins’ flight home was delayed several hours by an issue with their plane.