| Recap (AP) | Photo Gallery | Game Highlights
|The Penguins are off to the best start they could have hoped for on their current four-game home stand. I’ve written earlier that Pittsburgh needed to get at least five points during this home stretch to stay afloat in the playoff chase. Following its improbable 4-3 comeback victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday and the 4-1 win against Columbus Friday night, Pittsburgh has already netted four points. |
The Penguins now have 57 points in the standings, one behind Florida for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. However, the Panthers have played three less games so Pittsburgh still has little room for error.
Now they’ve got showdowns against two of the best three teams in the National Hockey League: Detroit and San Jose. The Penguins need one point from those two contests to hover at sea level, but if they can get two or more then they’ll make some considerable headway.
|WHAT HAPPENED |
|(AP) - 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.
|SHOT OF THE NIGHT |
Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis celebrate Pittsburgh's empty-net goal to seal a 4-1 victory over Columbus (photo by Getty)
|What Worked: Second Period |
The Penguins played a tight-checking first period. Pittsburgh was outshot early but Marc-Andre Fleury kept the game scoreless. That enabled the Penguins to explode in the second period for three goals. A strong defensive effort helped those three second-period goals stand for the victory.
What Didn't Work: Shutout Bid
The Penguins defense did a great job of keeping the front of the net clear of bodies. Columbus had a lot of shots in the game but failed to really get any rebound chances from close range. The Blue Jackets were forced to stay on the perimeter. However, Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout bid was ruined when Columbus converted a power-play score in the third period.
|Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves, including a couple split toe saves that should end up on some highlight reels. The Penguins netminder always seems to play his best hockey down the final stretch of a season and he looked to be rounding into his normal form. Fleury made 15 stops in the first period to keep the game close and then slammed the door on Columbus’ offense – minus one goal – the rest of the way. |
Kris Letang recorded his first career two-goal game nine days ago. Friday night he tallied his second career two-goal game with a pair of scores for the Penguins. Letang finished the game with five shots and over 22 minutes of ice time.
|SCORING SYNOPSIS |
|Pittsburgh native R.J. Umberger helped the Penguins net the game’s first score. Kris Letang buried a power-play goal, with Umberger in the box, to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 advantage in the second period. Letang glided down the near side with the puck. Letang’s centering-pass attempt was blocked by Columbus’ Mike Commodore. Letang re-collected the puck and sneaked a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, who was on his knees and hugging the post. Pittsburgh 1, Columbus 0. |
Petr Sykora upped the Pittsburgh lead with his 21st goal of the season. Evgeni Malkin skated around the Blue Jackets zone and dished the puck to Brooks Orpik at the near point. Orpik cruised to the half boards and made a centering pass to Sykora in the high slot. Sykora got just enough of his stick on the puck to re-direct it through Dubielewicz’s five-hole. Pittsburgh 2, Columbus 0.
Letang nailed his second goal of the game with over five minutes left in the second period. Crosby skated the puck down the near side and dropped it to Letang. The blueliner drifted to the faceoff dot and unleashed a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Dubielewicz. Pittsburgh 3, Columbus 0.
The Blue Jackets broke the shutout bid with a power-play score halfway through the third period. Kristian Huselius had the puck in the far corner. He made a cross-crease pass to Fedor Tyutin on the opposite side of the goal. Tyutin nailed the one-timer with Marc-Andre Fleury sprawling in the paint. Pittsburgh 3, Columbus 1.
Crosby sealed the game with an empty-net goal with 32 seconds left. Pascal Dupuis collected the puck in the neutral zone. Instead of taking a shot, Dupuis dished to Crosby, who put the puck in the net. Pittsbugh 4, Columbus 1.
|INTRIGUING NOTABLES |
|Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury had a strong first period of playing, turning aside all 15 Columbus shots. He made a great kick save on a wraparound attempt by Rick Nash on a Blue Jackets power play. Fleury is playing aggressive and challenging shooters. He made a split toe save in the second period on Derek Dorsett. Fleury’s stellar performance kept the game close until the Penguins broke out for three goals in the second period. |
Jordan Staal had an outstanding game. He skated hard all night and was very physical. He was impressive in penalty killing situations. Staal also created a few scoring chances, especially early in the first period. He made a great maneuver with the puck to get around some defenders and got a shot off on net. Staal used his speed and a poke check to create a two-on-one short-handed chance but his one-timer was stopped. He finished the game with four shots, four hits and won 69 percent of his faceoffs.
Brooks Orpik made his presence known. He finished the game with 12 hits and three blocked shots.
|GAME NOTES |
|> Pittsburgh improved to 26-23-5 on the year, with a 14-10-2 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins have won six of their last eight home games. |
> PIT, K.Letang PP (4), 5:33 2nd period: Penguins 1, Blue Jackets 0.
PIT, P.Sykora (21), 8:35 2nd period: Penguins 2, Blue Jackets 0.
PIT, K.Letang (5), 15:08 2nd period: Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 0.
CLB, F.Tyutin PP (7), 9:44 3rd period: Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 1.
PIT, S.Crosby (21), 19:27 3rd period: Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 1.
> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assist against Columbus to extend his NHL lead in points to 80 (24G-56A). Malkin’s 56 assists are a league best. In his last 14 games, Malkin has collected nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points.
> Malkin is riding a seven-game scoring streak with six goals and five assists for 11 points in that stretch. He’s netted at least one goal in four of his last five games (six total). Malkin has notched a point in 11 of his last 12 games.
> Sidney Crosby recorded a goal and two assists for a three-point night against the Blue Jackets. He is still second in the league in scoring with 72 points (21G-51A) and his 51 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 56. Crosby has at least one point in 11 of his last 13 games, posting six goals and 16 assists for 22 points in that span.
> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (24+56=80) and Crosby (21+51=72). The last time Pittsburgh had the top two scorers in the league was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux (first) and Jaromir Jagr (second) topped the NHL. The team also had that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.
> Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves to record his 18th win of the season.
> Petr Sykora notched a goal against Columbus. He has eight points (5G-3A) in his last eight games.
> Ryan Whitney posted an assist against the Blue Jackets. He has five assists in his past six games.
> Brooks Orpik recorded 12 hits against Columbus.
> Mellon Arena sold out for the 93rd straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,050.
|THREE STARS ||QUOTE OF THE NIGHT |
| || |
|1. K.Letang, PIT |
2. S.Crosby, PIT
3. M.Fleury, PIT
|“With wins, when you win and things go well it just kind of |
builds up and you get more confident as you go.”
- Marc-Andre Fleury