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Blue Jackets defeat Penguins for sixth straight win

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets continue to win the hard way, but they’ll take that over losing every time.

Columbus, which lost nine games in a row earlier this season, won their sixth straight, a 4-3 shootout victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

For the second time in three games, Columbus allowed the tying goal in the final minute after an icing with the opposing goalie pulled for an extra attacker.

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang scored twice, including with 10.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the score 3-3, after Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson gave the Blue Jackets a 3-2 lead with 2:11 left.

The tying goal by Letang came after Columbus (12-15-2) iced the puck twice with Pittsburgh goaltender Thomas Greiss (23 saves) on the bench. On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets allowed the tying goal with 56 seconds remaining in the third period after an icing but defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in overtime.

"That’s a big two points for us," Columbus center Nick Foligno said. "We’ve got to make sure we tighten up those 6-on-5s. We’ve got to find away to be a little better, a little smarter. It’s tough against a high-powered team like that."

The one constant during the winning streak has been the goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky. He made 33 saves, including five during a penalty kill in overtime, and saved two of three shootout attempts.

"We created chances. Bobrovsky was outstanding," Pittsburgh forward Blake Comeau said.

Columbus had lost six straight at home to the Penguins in the regular season but defeated them at Nationwide Arena in Game 4 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference First Round. The Penguins won the series 4-2 and there was a charge again in the building Saturday.

"Obviously that’s still in your minds, doing those handshakes after Game 6, losing here," Columbus forward Boone Jenner said. "To play them here the first time here, you could see the crowd was electric."

Columbus got shootout goals from Cam Atkinson and Ryan Johansen for a 2-0 lead before Letang scored for the Penguins. After Foligno's shot was stopped by Greiss, Bobrovsky made a save on Brandon Sutter.

"We played really well [in] the third period," Letang said. "We were really after them. We earned that point."

Letang’s shorthanded goal put the Penguins ahead 2-1 earlier in the third period. The goal came 11 seconds into a Blue Jackets power play and was started by Craig Adams sending a pass to himself off the boards at the Columbus right point past defenseman James Wisniewski.

Adams and Letang had a 2-on-1 that was completed when Letang took the pass and roofed a backhander past Bobrovsky.

"[Adams] made a great play to suck that guy in and it was me against the goalie," Letang said.

Jenner tied the score 2-2 with 7:55 left in the third period on a penalty shot after Penguins defenseman Simon Despres tripped him on a breakaway. Jenner made several dekes and slowed down before beating Greiss with a forehand for his sixth goal, fifth in the past six games.

Columbus took a 3-2 lead during a 4-on-4 when Johnson took a cross-ice pass from Brandon Dubinsky and beat Greiss with a shot from the left dot. The defenseman has two goals this season.

The game was feisty from the start.

"We knew Columbus was going to come out with the energy they did and the type of forechecking that they did," Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said. "I thought we responded in a couple of ways.

"We got out of our zone quick as the period went along. As the game went along physically we met the challenge and I thought we started taking over."

Foligno gave Columbus 1-0 lead on a power play 3:02 into the game. He has 14 goals after scoring 18 in 70 games last season.

Pittsburgh (19-6-4) withstood a Columbus two-man advantage for 49 seconds early in the second period to tie the game 1-1 on a Comeau goal with 4:54 left in the period.

Comeau’s 10th goal doubled his total from 61 games with the Blue Jackets last season. It was his first goal on the road this season.

"The crowd was engaged," he said. "It was a great atmosphere. It was a physical game. Both teams had chances. It was a fun game to be a part of."

The Penguins were without center Sidney Crosby, who is awaiting results of tests to determine if he has the mumps. He did not play against the Calgary Flames at Consol Energy Center on Friday.

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