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COLUMBUS — Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick and the Pittsburgh Penguins almost blew a four-goal lead before beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 Monday night to clinch their first-round playoff series in six games.
The Blue Jackets scored three times in a 4:52 span in the third period to turn up the pressure on the Penguins, who awaits the winner of the New York-Philadelphia series.
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 four 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 two minutes left.
Columbus' 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 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 went sent to the penalty box for a roughing penalty before Malkin scored again.
Columbus' 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 first, but made a big save when he stymied MacKenzie, who had intercepted a Craig Adams pass in the Penguins' end and fired off a close shot.
The Penguins improved to 8-4 in Game 6s when up 3-2 in the playoffs. Columbus was without veteran forward (and Pittsburgh native) R.J. Umberger (shoulder).