(SportsNetwork.com) - Evgeni Malkin finally broke out of his scoring slump, and the Pittsburgh Penguins at last put away the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Malkin potted his first three goals of this year's playoffs to stake the Penguins to a huge lead they very nearly gave away in Game 6 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup, but the Metropolitan Division champs held off a furious late rally to hang on for a 4-3 victory and clinch the series.
Brandon Sutter also scored and Matt Niskanen contributed a pair of assists as Pittsburgh built a seemingly insurmountable 4-0 advantage through 2 1/2 periods, before the resilient Blue Jackets struck three times within a span of less than five minutes to place the outcome back in doubt.
Nick Foligno's successful redirection brought Columbus within one with 4:47 remaining, but the Blue Jackets' comeback attempt ultimately fell just short to enable Pittsburgh to move on to the conference semifinals, where it awaits the winner of the New York Rangers-Philadelphia series.
Fedor Tyutin had a goal and an assist during Columbus' third-period surge, with Sergei Bobrovsky recording 24 saves in the season-ender.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 shots as well for the Penguins.