Malkin's hat trick lifts Penguins to win
Columbus, Ohio • Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally flexed their offensive muscles.
And they needed every bit of scoring they could muster.
Malkin had a hat trick and the Penguins almost blew a four-goal lead before holding off the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Monday night to clinch their first-round playoff series in six games.
"It's more important that we win the game and [end] the series," Malkin said of the 10th time he's scored three times in a game in his career.
"Going into the second round now, you feel so much better when you have confidence. I hope in the next round I can score more."
Pittsburgh awaits the winner of the New York-Philadelphia series, with the Rangers leading 3-2 going into Tuesday night's Game 6.
It's a good thing for the Penguins that Malkin scoreless in his past nine playoff games including the first five in the series finally found the net.
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, an overwhelming favorite before the series got under way.
"We're a proud group in here," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "We didn't want to get embarrassed on home ice. If it was going to be our last game of the season, we didn't want to have any quit. We didn't have any quit in this locker room all season."
Wild 5, Avalanche 2 • In St. Paul, Minn., Zach Parise scored early and late on tipped shots, and Minnesota tacked on two empty-net goals in its victory over Colorado on Monday night that sent the first-round playoff series to a decisive Game 7.
Parise and Mikko Koivu each had two assists. The teams will meet again in Denver on Wednesday night, with the winner taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference semifinals.
Parise scored just 49 seconds into the game and Mikael Granlund made it 2-0 later in the first period, but a costly turnover by Ryan Suter at the end of a failed 5-on-3 situation led to a short-handed goal for the Avalanche when Paul Stastny scored for the fourth time in the series.
Nick Holden got the tying goal in the second period to stop the power-play skid for the Avalanche, who had been denied by a resurgent Wild penalty-kill unit in 19 of 20 prior opportunities in the series.
Matt Duchene returned to the Avalanche lineup and notched an assist, but Parise stole the show for the home team. Parked in the crease with the season on the line, he took a shove in the back from goalie Semyon Varlamov and then outmuscled defenseman Erik Johnson for position on Koivu's shot from behind the circle with 6:29 left in the game.
Pittsburgh 4, Columbus 3 Penguins win series 4-2
Minnesota 5, Colorado 2
Series tied 3-3
• San Jose at Los Angeles, late
Sharks lead series 3-2
N.Y. Rangers at Philadelphia,5:30 p.m., NBCSN
Rangers lead series 3-2