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Kris Letang's two goals lead Penguins past Columbus 4-1

NHL.com @NHL

PITTSBURGH - Kris Letang, normally not a scoring threat, had his second two-goal game in 10 days and the Pittsburgh Penguins won successive games for only the second time in 2 1/2 months, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Friday night.

Sidney Crosby set up both of Letang's goals and scored into an empty net in the final minute for the Penguins, who had lost three of four but moved within one point of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They followed up on their 4-3, come-from-behind win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh, which plays Detroit on Sunday in the Red Wings' first visit to Pittsburgh since winning the Stanley Cup there in June, and Carolina have 57 points each and trail eighth-place Florida, which has 58.

Since winning six in a row in mid-November, the Penguins had won consecutive games only once, on Jan. 16 (Ducks) and Jan. 18 (Rangers).

Columbus, two points out of the No. 8 spot in the Western when the night began, played for the first time in 20 games without rookie goalie Steve Mason and lost its third in a row and fifth in seven games.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves but was denied his third shutout of the season when Kristian Huselius threw the puck on net from a bad angle in a corner and Fedor Tyutin deflected it past the goalie on a Blue Jackets power play midway through the third.

NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin scored twice and had an assist in leading that Wednesday night comeback in which the Penguins trailed 3-0 in the third, but it was Letang who unexpectedly provided the offence as Malkin was limited to one assist.

Until the second-year defenceman scored twice against the Rangers during a 6-2 win on Jan. 28, Letang had only one goal this season and nine goals in his career.

Letang gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead by scoring from along the goal-line on a power play at 5:33 of the second with the Blue Jackets' R.J. Umberger in the penalty box for hooking. Umberger, a Pittsburgh native, had several dozen friends and family members in the crowd.

Columbus' Manny Malhotra came close to tying it not long after that, but his close-range shot deflected off the left post. That allowed Pittsburgh's Petr Sykora to make it 2-0 on a scoring sequence that began with him controlling the puck by kicking it to his stick and ended with him redirecting Brooks Orpik's pass to the slot past Wade Dubielewicz, who was playing only his second game with Columbus.

Mason sat out with an ongoing case of pneumonia after starting the previous 19 games.

Letang, who came in with 11 goals in 118 career games, scored again later in the third when Crosby took two defenders with him as he skated toward the net before making a no-look drop pass to an undefended Letang in the left circle faceoff dot.

Notes: Columbus is 8-3-1 against Eastern Conference teams after beginning the night with the Western Conference's third-best record against Eastern teams. ... For the second game in a row, the Penguins faced a goalie playing only his second game with his new team. They staged their Wednesday night comeback against Tampa Bay's Mike McKenna. ... The Penguins' next two games are against the West's two top teams in No. 1 San Jose and No. 2 Detroit. ... Columbus, which began the game with an NHL-worst 11.8 power-play percentage, went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

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