Pens beat Columbus again
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Deryk Engelland, Chris Kunitz and Jussi Jokinen scored and backup Jeff Zatkoff made 19 saves in his first NHL win to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past Columbus 3-0 Saturday night for their fourth victory in a row and second over the Blue Jackets in as many days.
Zatkoff, 0-2 with a 5.06 goals-against average and a .818 save percentage coming in, made several big stops but wasn’t very busy. He’s backing up Marc-Andre Fleury while Tomas Vokoun recovers from preseason surgery.
Engelland scored on a rapid-fire one-timer and Kunitz picked up his eighth when a shot went in off a Blue Jacket’s stick in the third. Jokinen added an empty-netter.
A crowd of 18,634, including thousands of Penguins fans, cheered wildly when it was announced that Columbus will host the 2015 NHL All-Star weekend.
Perhaps Zatkoff’s best save came when he blocked Dalton Prout’s hard shot from close range at 8:32 of the third period that would have cut the margin to a goal. It did not appear that Zatkoff knew he was sitting on the puck in the crease.
Kunitz made it 2-0 just 47 seconds into the third period on a fluky goal.
Before taking a hard check from defenseman Jack Johnson at the right end of the goal line, Kunitz swept the puck toward the goal – where there were no teammates. But it ricocheted off the stick of trailing Columbus winger Blake Comeau and found the net.
Curtis McElhinney, getting his second start for the Blue Jackets, looked to the rafters in exasperation.
The game marked the second time the teams had met in a little over 24 hours. In Pittsburgh on Friday night, the Penguins manhandled the Blue Jackets 4-2 as Fleury was staked to a 4-0 lead and made it stand up with 37 saves in a 4-2 win. Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky, the Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie last year, was pulled in favor of McElhinney after giving up three goals on 13 shots.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins scored at the 6:46 mark of the second.
Joe Vitale won a puck battle against two Blue Jackets along the wall, then skated to the right corner and saucered a centering pass to Engelland, who unloaded a one-timer from the lower right circle.
McElhinney, who stopped 23 other shots, had no chance of stopping it.
Both goaltenders made sterling saves to keep the game close.
McElhinney smothered a point-blank blast off a rebound by Pascal Dupuis 7 minutes into the game.
Zatkoff also gloved a hard slap shot by Ryan Murray from the right wing on a break later in the second period.
The 19 shots by the Blue Jackets were the fewest they’ve mustered in a game this season.
Midway through the second period, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Blue Jackets director of hockey operations John Davidson appeared on the arena monitors over center ice to announce that the 2015 All-Star Game weekend was coming to Columbus.
The 2013 event was supposed to be held at Nationwide Arena, but that was canceled by the lockout.
NOTES: The Penguins play home-and-home games on back-to-back nights three times this season; this is the only such pairing all season for the Blue Jackets. … Fleury got the night off even though the Penguins play just three games in the next 11 days. … Pittsburgh had not played in Columbus since a 7-2 victory on Dec. 4, 2010, victory. … The Blue Jackets had several points streaks end: James Wisniewski (5), Nick Foligno (3) and Ryan Johansen (3). … Sidney Crosby, leading the NHL in points with 22 coming in, assisted on Jokinen’s empty-netter to give him at least a point in 13 of the Penguins’ 15 games. They are 11-2 when he scores, 0-2 when he doesn’t.