COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — James Neal scored three times and had two assists, and Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal and set up two other tallies to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3 on Sunday night.
Chris Kunitz added his 21st goal and two assists, and Jeff Zatkoff made 25 saves for the Penguins, who have won all four meetings with Columbus this season.
Crosby’s shot, which broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period, was initially stopped by Curtis McElhinney. But Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin plowed into McElhinney, and the puck ended up over the goal line.
Neal scored twice on the power play, including his third goal of the night and 14th of the season with 2:27 left — giving him a career-high five points.
Brandon Dubinsky, Corey Tropp and Nikita Nikitin scored for the Blue Jackets before their biggest home crowd of the season, 18,871. Nikitin also had an assist.
The Penguins took the lead for good when Crosby scored his 22nd goal of the season off a feed from Kunitz on a 2-on-2 rush.
Moments later, Crosby sent a cross-ice pass to Kunitz for a one-timed shot that pushed Pittsburgh’s lead to two. Neal’s final goal sealed the win.
The Blue Jackets got on the board first with Dubinsky’s seventh goal. Dubinsky backhanded a shot past Zatkoff, who got the start over No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The Blue Jackets were shut out by Fleury on Nov. 2.
Just 28 seconds after Corey Tropp went to the box for tripping, the NHL’s second-best power-play unit got the Penguins even.
Matt Niskanen flipped a pass to Neal in the high slot for a rising shot that eluded McElhinney, who was being hit by Kunitz, at 4:55.
The Penguins took the lead after Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson’s pass was kept in the zone by Neal, who jumped high to get a glove on the puck. Crosby sent a pass to Neal for a hard wrist shot from the slot.
The Blue Jackets countered at 13:42 when Tropp took a pass from Boone Jenner in the high slot. Tropp deked and slid the puck between the skates of defenseman Olli Maatta and swooped in alone on Zatkoff. Tropp faked the backhand and put a forehand under Zatkoff’s pad for his second goal.
NOTES: Penguins D Rob Scuderi, who had missed 29 games with a broken ankle, returned. … Blue Jackets LW Blake Comeau played in his 400th NHL game. … Columbus recalled C Ryan Craig from AHL Springfield on Sunday and sent him back when fourth-line C Derek MacKenzie was able to play after taking a puck off the shin on Friday. … Pittsburgh was without Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Paul Martin and Kris Letang. Columbus was missing Nathan Horton, Marian Gaborik, Matt Calvert, and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
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