Sidney Crosby has been tormenting Columbus for years.
Someday, he will retire, and the Blue Jackets will be able to relax.
They shouldn’t expect that to happen anytime soon, though, because Crosby looks like he still has a lot of elite hockey left in him.
Crosby scored three goals, including one that broke a 3-3 tie at 14:28 of the third period, and set up another to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-3 victory against Columbus at Nationwide Arena Tuesday night.
He also sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 36.1 seconds left in regulation. His four-point rampage gives Crosby 20 goals and 37 assists in 39 career games against the Blue Jackets, including 11 goals and 13 assists in the past nine games.
The victory was the fifth in a row for the Penguins and raised their record to 8-6.
Crosby scored the game-winner by setting up to the right of the Columbus crease, then steering a feed from Erik Karlsson, who was above the right circle, past Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins.
Merzlikins’ career record against the Penguins is 0-6.
His late heroics aside, Crosby didn’t need much time to extend two impressive streaks.
Just 4:10 into the opening period, Marcus Pettersson chipped a short backhand pass to Crosby, who was straddling the goal line to the right of the Columbus net and beat Merzlikins for his eighth of the season.
That goal extended Crosby’s points streak to nine games and marked the sixth consecutive game in which the Penguins have opened the scoring. (It also was the eighth time in the past nine games and the 11th in their first 14 that they grabbed a 1-0 lead.)
Kris Letang got the second assist, pushing his career points total to 699.
Columbus capitalized on an Evgeni Malkin turnover inside the attacking blue line in the middle of the period to pull even.
Malkin lost the puck after entering the offensive end, and the Blue Jackets took the play the other way, with a rush culminating in a Kirill Marchenko from the slot that eluded Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
Merzlikins preserved the tie by denying Lars Eller on a close-range backhander 12 1/2 minutes into the period, and the Penguins killed a tripping minor against Vinnie Hinostroza assessed at 15:11, limiting the Blue Jackets to one shot.
However, with just 32 seconds to go before the intermission, Columbus winger Yegor Chinakhov took advantage of an excellent screen by Boone Jenner, throwing a shot off Jarry and into the net from above the right dot to put the Blue Jackets in front.
Jake Guentzel tied the game, 2-2, at 7:04 of the second, punching in a loose puck from below the hash marks for his sixth.
The goal stretched Guentzel’s scoring streak to five games and netted assists for Hinostroza and Crosby.
The Penguins got through an interference minor called on Ryan Graves at 13:35 unscathed and had to do it again after Eller was penalized for cross-checking Johnny Gaudreau at 18:24.
Jarry made an excellent stop on Columbus rookie Adam Fantilli from just inside the right circle with 16.1 seconds to go in the period to keep it 2-2 heading into the third.
The Penguins finally got a chance with the extra man — their only one of the game — when Blue Jackets center Sean Kuraly tripped Karlsson 73 seconds into the third, but they were unable to exploit it.
Nonetheless, Karlsson put the Pittsburgh Penguins back in front, 3-2, at 8:40 of the third, as he took a cross-ice feed from Malkin and pounded a shot past Merzlikins on the short side from the top of the left circle. The goal was Karlsson’s fifth and gave him a six-game points streak.
Merzlikins gloved Bryan Rust’s shot after he got behind the Columbus defense at 10:39, and his teammates rewarded him by tying the game just over a minute later.
Alexandre Texier got the goal, swatting in a rebound at 11:45, effectively setting the stage for Crosby’s game-winner.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice Wednesday at noon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex and will face New Jersey Thursday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.