Penguins survive late scare, eliminate Blue Jackets in Game 6
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Matt Niskanen tried to laugh it off.
Otherwise, there was no defense of how the Penguins almost blew it again.
“I don't know what to say,” Niskanen said. “The only thing I can think of is 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. I mean, you know they're coming.
“A win's a win. We won the series, but we'll have to talk about that.”
The Penguins won Round 1 on Monday night, eliminating the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 4-3 victory at Nationwide Arena.
They overcame goal slumps by franchise centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the loss of defenseman Brooks Orpik, three short-handed goals allowed, consistent punishment from Blue Jackets' forwards, internalization of external Cup-or-bust expectations and a knack for giving up leads.
They almost gave another one away in Game 6.
Ahead 4-0 and on a power play near the midpoint of the final period, the Penguins surrendered a short-handed goal to defenseman Fedor Tyutin. About five minutes later, a power-play goal by winger Artem Anisimov and an even-strength marker from winger Nick Foligno had the Penguins' lead down to one — and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wondering, “What is going on?”
“We had played so good,” Fleury said. “But we won, though, so that's what counts.”
Fleury finished with 24 saves to earn his first postseason series win in four years.
It only felt like that long since Crosby or Malkin had scored. Their respective postseason goal droughts were at 10 and nine games, respectively, before Game 6.
Malkin downplayed the significance of his morning practice individual work of shooting pucks into empty nets, but James Neal said he could tell then a breakout loomed.
Malkin scored three goals, his second career postseason hat trick, and finished with six shots — his highest total of the series.
“He was firing pucks (Monday) morning and hitting the back of the net every time,” Neal said. “I know he was feeling good and confident.”
Malkin's confidence was best exemplified by where he directed shots on the first and third goals he scored against Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
“It's my favorite (to) shoot low and blocker (side),” Malkin said.
The favored Penguins won the best-of-seven series 4-2. They will next play either the New York Rangers or Philadelphia Flyers in Round 2. The Rangers lead the Flyers, 3-2, with Game 6 on Tuesday at Philadelphia.
Penguins centers Brandon Sutter and Joe Vitale did not finish Game 6. Sutter was hurt, seemingly by blocking a shot, in the second period. Vitale went down in the third on a knee-on-knee collision with Blue Jackets winger Blake Comeau.
Coach Dan Bylsma did not provide an update on those players' statuses.
Orpik missed a second consecutive game because of an undisclosed injury that stems from Game 4. He has not skated since leaving practice early Friday.
The Blue Jackets dolled out 306 hits to the Penguins' 180, but their six third-period goals were more disconcerting to the Penguins, who blew multiple-goal leads in losing Games 2 and 4.
Players are sick of talking about the trend of letting opponents off the mat.
“It wasn't necessarily perfect at the end,” Crosby said.
“I don't know. Don't ask me,” Malkin said.
“It's not an X-and-O thing,” Niskanen said. “It's a mentality. You can see we're in the right spots, but we're not as assertive or confident as we normally are when momentum starts to swing.
“Good teams, you find a way to get that momentum back quicker. The other team's going to make a push (when) their season is on the line. We've got to learn how to get the momentum back on our side or at least slow that down quicker.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Woman shot at Kennywood Park
- McCutchen, Pirates hitters increasingly in crosshairs
- Philly’s new vibrancy lures crowds
- Don’t remove history’s lessons
- Pirates minor league report: Ramirez more mindful while at plate
- Locke pitches 8 scoreless innings as Pirates edge Indians
- Starting 9: Pirates missing out on young bat
- Grandmother of boy dropped at Uniontown Hospital says he’s in ICU
- Court attire can have impact, public defenders say
- Starkey: Bring back the Brawl!
- State-owned universities spend millions in race to snare students