Bob Smizik: Penguins squeeze out win, 4-3

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Never an easy game, eh?

Just when it looked like the Penguins would rise up in their dominance and slap down the pesky Columbus Blue Jackets like some nuisance they’d at last grown tired of, they were left scrapping for their life Monday night.

In yet another game that casts doubts on their ability to make a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Penguins were rudely interrupted on their way to a rout by a Columbus team that would not quit. Or was it a Penguins team that would not play 60 minutes?

The positive to take out of the night was that the Penguins ended the series in six games with a 4-3 win and will advance to the conference semifinal where their opponent will be the New York Rangers or the Philadelphia Flyers.

The negative is the Penguins led, 4-0, with less than 10 minutes remaining. Yep, while cruising to victory on a lead built mostly by a hat trick by Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins gave up three goals in less than five minutes before holding on for the win.

What this means for the future remains unclear. It cannot, however, be good. The Penguins never put 60 good minutes together against the Blue Jackets and that is something they’ll not likely get away with in the next round.

Malkin -- remember him? -- scored twice in the first period and it was over -- or so it seemed. He added a third goal, after Brandon Sutter’s in the second period, and it was over, for sure -- or so it seemed.

But a shorthanded goal by Fedor Tyutin with 10:21 remaining gave the Blue Jackets they themselves probably didn’t think they had. But when it got to 4-3, the Penguins were able, although not easily, secure the win.

His goal at 9:11 of the first period was Malkin’s first in the playoffs since May 24 of last season against Ottawa, a nine-game stretch. He had four assists in the first five games against Columbus.

Sidney Crosby, who did not score, does not have a postseason goal since May 22 vs. Ottawa. He had five assists in the first five games against the Blue Jackets.

Ahead for the Penguins is either the Rangers or the Flyers. New York leads the series, 3-2. The team play Tuesday night at Philadelphia.

Although the Penguins have had considerable trouble against Philadelphia, particularly at the Consol Energy Center, and although they were eliminated in six games by Philadelphia in 2012 -- after losing the first three games -- the Rangers could be just as difficult an opponent. They finished second in the Metropolitan Division to the Penguins, and two points in front of the Flyers, and had the second stingiest defense in the Eastern Conference, behind only Boston.

Based on how they played in this series, no opponent will be easy for the Penguins.

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