Wins are wins, and the Pittsburgh Penguins (24-10-5) are proving the axiom. The score is all that matters to the standings, but the process matters greatly to the coach and team. The Penguins’ process has been ugly, but they’ve won their last three and five of their last seven. They will finish the second of their back-to-backs Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets (18-18-1) at Nationwide Arena.
On Thursday night, the Penguins raced to a 5-1 lead over the Ottawa Senators but hung on for a narrow 6-4 win at PPG Paints Arena. Head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t demonstrably angry but did chide his team’s lack of consistency and structure.
“We will have that discussion with the players. At the end of the day, it boils down to commitment and attention to detail. We are going to practice these things daily so that they become habitual,” Sullivan said.
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Defenseman Mike Matheson scored a pair of goals, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Dominik Simon scored goals, as did Jake Guentzel, who added the empty-netter.
Columbus is clinging to the slim chance of a wild-card playoff berth. They are 11 points behind the Boston Bruins for the second position but handed the Philadelphia Flyers a 10th straight loss on Thursday night.
Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese was a Penguins’ healthy scratch Thursday night. Brian Boyle remained in the lineup and had a first-period fight with Austin Watson.
Casey DeSmith, who was activated from COVID protocol on Thursday, will likely start for the Penguins.
Possible Penguins Lines:
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Rickard Rakell|
|Danton Heinen||Ryan Poehling||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Brock McGinn||Sam Poulin||Drew O'Connor|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||Jeff Petry|
|P.O Joseph||Jan Rutta|
Columbus Blue Jackets Lines, per PuckPedia.com:
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Puckline: Penguins -1.5 (+115). Columbus +1.5 (-135).
O/U 6.5: Over (-115) Under (-105)
Penguins win the first period (-0.5) +130
Penguins win first period 2-1 (+2000)
Bryan Rust to score first goal +1200
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
*The Penguins have scored first in 23 games. They are 20-3-0 when they score first.
*The Penguins PK slipped below 90% again (89.8%, 2nd). The power play inched up last week (18.3%, 20th). Columbus is not on good special teams. The PK is near the middle (78.8%, 19th), and the power play is near the bottom (15.6%, 27th).
*Jason Zucker and Drew O’Connor are on LTIR, and Louis Domingue is on IR.
*The Penguins are 6-3-0 in back-to-backs (4-1-0 on the first night; 2-2-0 on the second night.
*Sidney Crosby has 35 points in 30 career games against Columbus.
*The Penguins have won each of their last four games versus Metropolitan Division opponents and are 5-2-0 against divisional opponents this season.
*The Penguins are 13-5-3 on the road. Their 29 points on the road are tied for second-most in the NHL, while 13 wins and .690 points percentage are third-best.
*Kris Letang has a career-long nine-game points streak (2-12-14).
- On Thursday night, Mike Matheson’s GWG tied him for the league lead among defensemen, with Colorado Avalanche defender Cale Makar (4).
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T Sportsnet; Radio: 105.9 The X