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Penguins lose to Blue Jackets on Foligno's hat trick

by Craig Merz /

COLUMBUS -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are battling for second place in the Metropolitan Division, but a second straight loss and seventh in the past 11 games has them worried about making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pittsburgh led by two goals, but the Columbus Blue Jackets, with three goals from Nick Foligno, defeated the Penguins 5-3 at Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

The Penguins (42-25-11), who possess the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, are three points behind the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division and two behind the third-place Washington Capitals. The Penguins have a game in hand on each.

"We need points," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's not a surprise. We're well aware of that."

Columbus (39-35-4) has won a Blue Jackets-record nine straight games.

Foligno got his first NHL hat trick in his 541st NHL game with an empty-net goal with 57 seconds left. Brandon Dubinsky assisted on the three goals, which gave Foligno 30 this season.

"It's special, amazing, actually," Foligno said of the hat trick. "I have [Dubinsky] to thank for all of them."

Matt Calvert and Scott Hartnell scored for Columbus. Crosby, Brandon Sutter and Ben Lovejoy scored for Pittsburgh.

Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made 33 saves; Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for the Penguins.

It was the Blue Jackets' third hat trick in the past six games. The others were Hartnell against the Anaheim Ducks on March 24, and Cam Atkinson three days later at the Chicago Blackhawks.

"The hat trick flu is flying around the team," Dubinsky said. "[Foligno's] the latest victim."

The Penguins were sloppy defensively, leading directly to two Blue Jackets goals.

"They weren't defensive lapses. They were turnovers," Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said. "When you're confronted, you've got to manage the puck and get it by the pressure."

The Penguins lost after holding a two-goal lead for the third time in past six games. The Blue Jackets rallied from two down Thursday to defeat the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout.

"The way it's going, we should pull our goaltender the first five minutes, give them a couple of goals and then play," Columbus coach Todd Richards said.

Foligno's second goal put the Blue Jackets ahead 3-2 at 6:46 of the third period. He stole the puck from Pittsburgh defenseman Derrick Pouliot at center ice and passed ahead to Dubinsky. His shot was saved by Fleury, but Foligno drove the net and scored on the rebound.

Hartnell made it 4-2 at 9:29 by jamming in the puck during a scramble while Fleury tried to smother it. Marko Dano got his second assist of the game on Hartnell's 26th goal of the season.

The Penguins needed 35 seconds to respond when Lovejoy got his second of the season with a shot from the right point to make it 4-3.

"We really didn't get desperate until we were down a couple of goals," Crosby said. "We have to understand that's how you play the entire game. Regardless of the score, our desperation has to be there."

The Columbus rally started with goals by Foligno and Calvert 2:03 apart late in the second period. Foligno finished a tic-tac-toe play at 16:25. The Penguins were careless leaving the zone, and Artem Anisimov got the loose puck to Dubinsky, who fed Foligno at the left side of the crease.

"That gave them some life, gave them momentum, and that let them back in the game," Johnston said.

Calvert scored at 18:28, his 11th goal of the season.

"There's a letdown for a couple of minutes," Crosby said. "It's a tight game. If we get through that fine, it's a different hockey game."

Crosby, who leads the NHL with 81 points, scored his 27th goal at 8:21 of the first period. Sutter made it 2-0 at 11:07 of the second, taking a slick backhand pass by Cole that eluded three Blue Jackets. Sutter has 18 goals.

"We didn't deserve to win, and that should make everybody angry," Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "We have to make the playoffs first, then after that we've got to play way better than we are right now."

The Penguins play the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. The Blue Jackets go for 10 wins in a row Monday against the New York Rangers.

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