Martin keys Pens to victory
WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Paul Martin returned after an 18-game absence and scored the winner to help the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminate the Winnipeg Jets from playoff contention with a 4-2 victory Thursday night.
Martin, who was out because of a broken hand, made it 3-2 for the Penguins 11 seconds into a power play at 7:42 of the third period.
With Jets defenseman Mark Stuart in the penalty box for hooking, James Neal sent a pass into the slot for Martin, who fired a one-timer by goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Brian Gibbons added an insurance goal when the Jets turned over the puck and he beat Pavelec with a low shot at 16:24. Sidney Crosby had a pair of assists.
Pittsburgh (49-23-5) won the NHL’s Metropolitan Division title before the game was over because Philadelphia lost to Columbus earlier in the evening.
The Jets franchise hasn’t made the playoffs since the team was the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07.
Dallas and Phoenix are tied with 85 points for the final spot in the Western Conference, but the Stars have a game in hand. They also still play each other.
Winnipeg has 78 points (34-34-10) and only four games left in the season.
The Penguins got goals from Beau Bennett and Greg Adams, too.
Olli Jokinen and Zach Redmond scored for Winnipeg. Marc-Andre Fleury made 13 saves in his 37th win of the season, while Pavelec stopped 17 shots.
Winnipeg tied the game at 1 2:52 into the second period when Blake Wheeler rushed to the net ahead of Penguins’ defenders and the rebound off his shot was fired into the net by Jokinen. The assist gave Wheeler a career-high 65 points this season.
Redmond, playing in only his fifth game this season, made it 2-1 for Winnipeg with his first goal of the season at 9:42 before Adams tied it with less than two minutes to go in the period.
Notes: With the win tonight, Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma got his 250th career regular-season victory in his 396th game, the fastest coach in NHL history to reach that milestone. Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau won 250 games in 416 games. … Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik was playing in his 700th game. … It’s the second time in franchise history that Pittsburgh has won back-to-back division titles, with the last in 1992-93 and ’93-94.