Columbus rally not enough as Pens move on to second round Big leads were never safe in the series

Marc-Andre Fleury

Marc-Andre Fleury survived third period rally by Columbus – file photo by Lewis Bleiman

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Evgeni Malkin scored a hat trick as the Pittsburgh Penguins raced out to a 4-0 lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first round at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Facing elimination, the Blue Jackets mounted a furious third period rally much like they have in their two victories in this series when they let the Penguins jump out to a big lead. This time, the Blue Jackets came up short and lost the game, 4-3, and their season ended in front of their home fans after they lost the series, 4-2.

Malkin’s goals were his first three of the series after the Blue Jackets were able to keep Malkin and Sidney Crosby goalless for the first five games. Pittsburgh forward James Neal said, “I think I could see it coming in morning skate. Everything he shot was going in the back of the net and we talked to him about it, he’s got to shoot the puck more. You saw that tonight. (Crosby and Chris Kunitz) made some great plays to him. With his finish, he’s hard to stop. So big game for our team and big game for him.”

Malkin scored his first goal at 9:11 of the first period after he buried a cross-ice feed from Kunitz, who passed it through James Wisniewski’s legs.

Malkin scored his second on the power play when he converted a feed into the high slot from Sidney Crosby off the crossbar and into the Columbus net behind Sergei Bobrovsky at 13:13 of the first period.

34 seconds into the second period, Brandon Sutter scored on a breakaway after picking Wisniewski’s pocket, finishing on the backhand going around Bobrovsky.

Malkin completed his hat trick at 15:22 of the second period when he came down the left side on a 2-on-1 breakaway, electing to shoot the puck himself instead of passing it to Sutter.

“I thought they played with a lot of speed right from the start. We had trouble containing it for the first 40 minutes. Malkin obviously had a huge game for them and he made us pay on a couple of opportunities where he had space,” said Columbus forward Ryan Johansen.

The Blue Jackets began their comeback with 9:39 left in the game when Fedor Tyutin scored shorthanded off a feed from behind the goal line from Matt Calvert.

Artem Anisimov added Columbus’s second goal when he scored on the power play on a shot from the point through traffic with 6:06 left.

The Blue Jackets closed the deficit to within one goal with 4:47 left, when Nick Foligno deflected Tyutin’s shot from the point past Marc-Andre Fleury.

“You could feel the momentum changing and the fans getting into it goal after goal. The last three or four minutes I think we did a good job of trying to match that intensity, not playing on our heels, going back for pucks, getting pucks deep. We matched their intensity those last few minutes,” said Kunitz.

“I felt that with four and a half minutes left after the third goal that anything could happen. I really did. The way that the game was going, you could feel the energy. Our bench had some life — we had done it basically two games ago. Last time in this building we found a way to do it. My thought was that it was going to happen and anything could happen,” said Columbus head coach Todd Richards.

“Our guys played with a lot of pride there in the last period and, like I said, we just wanted to leave it all out on the ice and I think we did that in the third period,” said Johansen.

Fleury held on for the final 4:47 and finished with 24 saves on 27 shots, while his Columbus counterpart Bobrovsky ended the game with 24 saves on 28 shots.

“I think that we care so much that nobody wants to be the guy to screw up. We just, lately, have been forgetting to play the game. We stop moving our feet and just slap the puck around. You know they’re coming. They get a shorthanded goal that kind of starts it. You can just kind of feel the ball start rolling for them. A win’s a win. We win the series, but we’ll have to talk about that,” said Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen.

“You don’t want to just be a flash in the pan, you want to be a perennial winner. The Red Wings epitomize that. During my lifetime, they’re always a contender and it’s always what you’re trying to build. We want to build a perennial winner here in Columbus year in and year out. We want people to be talking about us for contending. We plan on having many deep playoff runs here,” said Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson.http://

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