PITTSBURGH (AP) – Evgeni Malkin scored twice and added an assist and Pittsburgh’s revived power play dominated the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 on Sunday night.
David Perron, Steve Downie and Derrick Pouliot also scored for the Penguins, who have won four straight. Sidney Crosby picked up two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 shots as Pittsburgh sent the Blue Jackets to their sixth straight defeat.
Pittsburgh went 3 of 6 with the man advantage, scoring all three goals during a dynamic second period.
Curtis McElhinney made 36 saves for the Blue Jackets. James Wisniewski, Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno scored for the short-handed Blue Jackets, who had no answer when Malkin got rolling.
The former MVP has five goals and six assists in his last five games.
The Blue Jackets stunned the Penguins 2-1 on Feb. 19, with Brandon Dubinsky providing the winner late in the third period. Any momentum Columbus generated vanished almost immediately. The Blue Jackets haven’t won since, a slide that has turned their disappointing season into something bordering disastrous for a club that took the Penguins to six spirited games in the opening round of the playoffs last spring.
Columbus will be home for the postseason this time around. That’s not a problem in Pittsburgh, which used its listless performance against the Blue Jackets two weeks ago as the jolt it needed after three listless months.
Pittsburgh finished February by ripping off victories over St. Louis, Florida and Washington. The testy 4-3 triumph over the Capitals on the road last Wednesday seemed to ease growing anxiety about the Penguins’ ability to compete with the Eastern Conference’s best.
The revival didn’t stop general manager Jim Rutherford from acquiring well-traveled forward Daniel Winnik from Toronto in exchange for Zach Sill and a pair of draft picks, with Rutherford not ruling out more deals before Monday’s deadline. Brought in for needed depth and his penalty killing acumen Winnik played 13:04 in his first game in Pittsburgh, his sixth NHL stop, and picked up an assist on Downie’s goal 18 seconds into the third that made it 5-1.
Yet whoever Rutherford adds, Pittsburgh’s chances of playing deep into the spring will rely heavily on Crosby, Malkin and its erratic power play. At the moment, all three appear to be rounding into form.
Wisniewski and Malkin traded goals late in the first period before Pittsburgh took over in the second.
McElhinney made a pair of breakaway stops on Patric Hornqvist and Crosby early in the period, but was helpless when the Blue Jackets went down two men following penalties to Wisniewski and Fedor Tyutin. Perron banked in a shot from the goal line off Jack Johnson and by the surprised goaltender 2:34 into the second.)
Malkin’s 24th goal of the season less than two minutes later didn’t need a fortunate bounce. He pounded a one-timer by McElhinney from just inside the left circle to make it 3-1. Pouliot poured in Pittsburgh’s third power-play goal of the period when the rookie defenseman pounced on a rebound off a shot by Hornqvist and the Penguins were in total control.
NOTES: Penguins D Rob Scuderi played in his 700th career game, 415 with Pittsburgh. … Blue Jackets C Brandon Dubinsky missed his second straight game with a concussion. … Pittsburgh scratched D Christian Ehrhoff, who missed almost a month with a concussion before returning last week against Washington. … Columbus hosts Washington on Tuesday. … The Penguins begin a four-game West Coast road trip on Wednesday in Colorado.