PITTSBURGH – And all was right in the world. Jake Guentzel scored his first career regular season hat trick, Sidney Crosby dished a couple of dazzling assists and Kris Letang had three points as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat a Metro Division team for the first time since opening night. The Penguins outbattled and outskated the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 4-2 win at PPG Paints Arena.
Guentzel battled and scrapped in front of the Columbus net. When Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo kicked out Dominik Simon’s rebound, Guentzel (11) won the battle and slid the puck past a sprawled Korpisalo for his third goal of the night and the clinching goal.
The Penguins are finally getting offensive production from Evgeni Malkin’s left wing. Tanner Pearson, acquired earlier this month from the LA Kings for speedy but offensively quiet Carl Hagelin netted his third goal in four games and third goal of the season just six minutes into the game.
Trailing 1-0, Phil Kessel snapped a shot through traffic immediately following Evgeni Malkin’s faceoff win. Pearson (3) made a beeline for the net and buried the rebound to tie the game.
Just two minutes later, a remarkable blind backhand pass from Sidney Crosby to Jake Guentzel gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead. Defenseman Kris Letang pinched along the wall and quickly moved the puck to Crosby near the goal line. Crosby’s spider sense was tinging as he backhanded the puck into the slot, directly to the uncovered Guentzel (9), who wristed it past Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo.
“I think Sid’s game right now is…inspiring. I know I use that word a lot when talking about him,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan.
Later in the first period, Crosby demonstrated skills not known to mere hockey mortals as he turned a one-on-three into a two-on-one. Crosby barged into the Columbus zone along the right wing wall and used his edges to skate around (and knock down) Columbus defenseman Markus Nutivaara. Suddenly, the well-covered Columbus zone became wide open.
Crosby again put the puck on Guentzel’s stick in the slot. Guentzel (10) again easily beat Korpisalo.
“We know when we play these guys, it’s going to be hard-nosed. It’s going to be a hostile game,” said Jake Guentzel who popped the hat trick. “We were ready for that and prepared for it. We did well tonight.”
Former Penguins second-round draft choice, defenseman Scott Harrington finally scored in a Penguins game, but it was for Columbus just four minutes into the game. From the slot, Harrington (1) got Columbus off on the right track. It was just Harrington’s fourth career goal in 98 NHL games.
After a few impressive saves, Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith let one slip later in the second period. Cam Atkinson’s (15) wrister from beyond the right circle sneaked through DeSmith’s five-hole.
Each team had a goal waived off. Columbus center Alexander Wennberg had his second goal of the season nullified by Anthony DuClair’s incidental interference, midway through the second period. The Penguins nullified goal was in the final minute of the second period when Phil Kessel snapped a rebound past Korpisalo but a video review clearly showed he was offside.
The loss was Korpisalo’s first regulation loss in eight decisions this season (5-1-2). DeSmith won his fifth game (5-3-3) as the Penguins look to their backup goaltenders to steady the net in the wake of starting goaltender Matt Murray’s struggles and lower body injury.