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Crosby Helps Cure What Was Ailing Penguins in 4-1 Win



Sidney Crosby was ill on Monday. Felt poorly enough that he sat out the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice at PPG Paints Arena.

He didn’t go on the ice during their optional skate the next morning, either.

By Tuesday evening, however, Crosby had recovered enough to be in the lineup for a visit from Columbus.

And after watching Crosby score the Penguins’ second and third goals in the Penguins’ 4-1 victory, it was the Blue Jackets who likely were feeling a bit queasy.

Crosby scored them little more than eight minutes apart during the second period, helping to lift the Penguins after an uninspired showing for most of the first period.

The Penguins (14-8-4) have won three games in a row after opening their now-complete five-game homestand 0-1-1. It was their seventh consecutive victory against Columbus, and their 16th in the past 18 meetings.

Evgeni Malkin, like Crosby, did not practice Monday because of illness, but played in the game.

The Penguins were without defenseman Kris Letang, who missed his fourth consecutive game while recovering from a stroke, and forward Ryan Poehling, who has an unspecified upper-body injury.

Danton Heinen, a healthy scratch for the previous three games, slid into Poehling’s spot alongside Terry Blueger and Josh Archibald on the fourth line.

Jake Guentzel left the game with a little more than six minutes to go in regulation, after he went hard into the boards behind the Columbus net. He was back after a quick trip to the locker room.

The Penguins shouldn’t have expected any sympathy from Columbus for their medical issues, however. The Blue Jackets’ defense corps had been gutted by injuries, with the likes of Zach Werenski, Jake Bean and Nick Blankenburg unavailable.

Johnny Gaudreau, who stunned the hockey universe when he signed with Columbus as a free agent this summer, staked the Blue Jackets to a 1-0 lead one minute into the game, as he put a shot over Tristan Jarry’s glove from near the left dot.

Columbus had the only two power plays of the opening period — Brock McGinn was penalized for cross-checking at 9:04, Guentzel for high-sticking at 13:01 — but failed to capitalize on either.

Penguins right winger Bryan Rust adjourned to the locker room with a few minutes to go before intermission after he appeared to be struck by a shot on the left hand or wrist, but he returned for the start of the second.

Lucky for the Penguins that he did, too, because Rust tied the game, 1-1, just 75 seconds after play resumed.

He pushed a shot between the legs of Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins from the left side of the crease for his seventh of the season, with an assist to Brian Dumoulin.

Just 47 seconds later, Crosby swatted in a Guentzel rebound as Columbus defenseman Andrew Peeke was knocking him to the ice. The goal netted assists for Guentzel and Rickard Rakell, his 200th in the NHL.

The Pittsburgh Penguins got their first power play at 9:29, when Blue Jackets defenseman Marcus Bjork was called for holding Guentzel, and needed just 45 seconds to pad their lead.

Crosby, set up at the right side of the crease, knocked in a Guentzel pass at 10:14 to make it 3-1.

The goal was Crosby’s 15th of the season and his 48th point in 36 career games against Columbus.

Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen challenged the goal, contending that Crosby had been guilty of goalie interference. He lost the challenge and, per NHL rules, Columbus was assessed a delay of game minor.

The Penguins were unable to take advantage of that chance with the extra man.

They also failed to exploit a penalty shot Teddy Blueger was awarded at 14:13, when he was fouled from behind during a breakaway. Merzlikins got a pad on Blueger’s penalty shot.

Blueger got a measure of revenge at 16:33, after Rust picked off a Patrik Laine pass near the Penguins’ blue line and threw a long shot toward the Blue Jackets’ net, which Merzlikins had just vacated in favor of an extra attacker.

Rust’s shot went wide, but Blueger collected the rebound and threw it into the net before Merzlikins could stop it. The goal was Blueger’s first of the season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are off until Friday, when they will visit Buffalo at 7:08 p.m. in the front end of a home-and-home series. The rematch with the Sabres will be 24 hours later at PPG Paints Arena.