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Penguins' Zatkoff shuts out Blue Jackets for 1st win

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, they were not happy giving up 39 shots. So the Penguins clamped down Saturday, limiting Columbus to 19 and making it easier for Jeff Zatkoff to record his first NHL victory in a 3-0 win at Nationwide Arena.

"There wasn't a ton of work for him at times in the game, but he looked really comfortable, looked really confident," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.

Zatkoff got all the support he needed from a goal in the first period by Deryk Engelland. Chris Kunitz extended his goal streak to four games early in the third, and Jussi Jokinen added an empty-net goal with 37 seconds left.

Zatkoff, in his third start as backup to Marc-Andre Fleury, helped the Penguins (11-4-0) complete a sweep of the home-and-home that began with a 4-2 win Friday. Zatkoff entered with an 0-2-0 record, 5.06 goals-against average and .818 save percentage.

"The guys played unreal tonight," Zatkoff said. "They didn't give up too much, and they started shooting more in the third but nothing too high-quality.

"When we got that second one I thought we did a great job of locking it down. They got bodies but they didn't get pucks. That's the biggest thing. Our guys were fronting shots all night. Our forwards blocked a ton of shots."

Ztakoff, 26, was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round (No. 74) of the 2006 NHL Draft but never made it to the League before signing a free-agent contract with the Penguins on July 1, 2012. The Miami (Ohio) University product led the American Hockey League last season with a 1.93 GAA for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

"Anytime you play more, you're going to get more experience," he said. "You're going to get better with your reads and learn how the team plays in front of you."

Columbus (5-8-0) has lost three straight.

"We weren't as hungry as they were," Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. "Until we grow up and mature as a team it's going to be tough. You've got to be a good professional. ... We simply weren't good enough."

It was a tense game until Kunitz provided some breathing room.

He has seven goals in the past 10 games but none was probably as fluky as the one he scored 47 seconds into the third period for the 2-0 lead. He raced into the right corner after the puck and centered it just before being crunched by Jack Johnson.

Blue Jackets forward Blake Comeau arrived late to the pass and tried to prevent it from gliding across the goalmouth to an awaiting Sidney Crosby. Comeau instead got his stick on the puck and sent it into his own goal.

"Obviously, we needed to come out and get that break," Blue Jackets center Derek MacKenzie said. "We didn't."

Not that it would have mattered.

"You can't call it a difference-maker because we didn't even score a goal," Dubinsky said.

It was left to Zatkoff to preserve the win. He did starting with a big stop of Dalton Prout at 11:28. Prout took a pass off the back wall by Dubinsky and released a low drive Zatkoff squeezed between his pads.

Columbus coach Todd Richards wanted the Blue Jackets to not only drive more to the net than Friday but stay there and create traffic in front of Zatkoff. The mission was not accomplished against a stout defense that yielded few shots and fewer rebounds.

"We were much better being aggressive against their low cycle," Bylsma said. "They had speed and space last game and had zone time. We were much better in the defensive zone."

The Penguins' pressure was bothersome and forced the Blue Jackets into mistakes.

"We got off our game and started turning pucks over. They feed off that," Richards said.

The Penguins dominated play to hold a 22-10 shot advantage through two periods but had only the goal by Engelland against Curtis McElhinney.

McElhinney made his second start for struggling reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who was lifted in the second period Friday after allowing three goals on 13 shots.

Engelland took a pass in the right circle from Joe Vitale for a one-timer that went between McElhinney and the post for his second goal at 6:44.

The Penguins couldn't increase the lead because McElhinney stood his ground late in the second against Crosby. The League's leading scorer was stationed to the right of the goal when the puck bounced his way. He had McElhinney beat to the near post but the goaltender sprawled to stop the shot.

Crosby assisted on Jokinen's goal and has five assists during a four-game point streak and at least one point in 13 of 15 games.

McElhinney made 24 saves. For Richards it was a tale of two goalies,

"I'm disappointed we wasted a performance like [McElhinney's]," Richards said. "We didn't test their young goalie."

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