Penguins find meaningful games; Jackets seek end to losing skid

League: NHL

Posted on: 29 Mar, 2024 at 11:31 PM

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

And so they meet again.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking for a sweep of a home-and-home set with the Blue Jackets in a rematch Saturday in Columbus.

Pittsburgh (32-30-10, 74 points) won its second game in a row and ran its point streak to three games (2-0-1) with a 3-2 win Thursday at home against the Blue Jackets (23-38-12, 58 points).

The Penguins' playoff hopes continue to hang by a thread, but as long as they are alive, they want to play in a meaningful way in meaningful games.

"We just need to keep going," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's one of those things where you've just got to keep learning with every game and making sure that we're trying to get better here.

"We have these guys (the Blue Jackets) again, so both teams will be familiar."

Crosby and fellow star Penguins center Evgeni Malkin already were well known to the Blue Jackets, and they put left their fingerprints all over the game Thursday.

Malkin had two goals, both on the power play, and Crosby added two assists.

Malkin eclipsed the 20-goal mark for the 15th time in the game and led his team with five shots. While this season hasn't been Malkin's best and has brought questions about slowing at age 37, he had what teammate Bryan Rust called a "vintage" game.

Malkin found a familiar -- or familial -- reason for the jump in his game. His parents, Vladimir and Natalia, were in the building and on the big screen after just arriving from Russia for an extended visit for the first time in a handful of years.

"It probably gives me a little more emotion," Malkin said.

The Blue Jackets, already eliminated from playoff contention, are trying to find emotion or something to break out of a losing streak that has reached six games (0-5-1).

While they didn't win Thursday, there was reason to believe the Blue Jackets are breaking out of their funk after a team meeting that morning.

"They showed up," Columbus coach Pascal Vincent said of his players. "We played with pace, but most importantly, we talked about adversity (Thursday) morning. We faced adversity the proper way and tried to make the right plays.

"We tried to play the proper way -- the right way -- for three periods."

Thursday's loss ended an 0-4-1 road trip and gave the Blue Jackets 15 straight losses in Pittsburgh.

"It's disappointing; we really wanted to get a win (in Pittsburgh), but it just didn't go our way," said Columbus forward Mathieu Olivier, who scored Thursday.

The Penguins outshot the Blue Jackets 36-19, but goaltender Daniil Tarasov (33 saves) was strong for Columbus, which led twice in that game.

"On to the next one," said Blue Jackets forward Cole Sillinger, who had his team's other goal. "We've got them Saturday and a chance to get them in our barn."

They still will have to contend with Crosby, 36, who averages 1.44 points a game in his career against Columbus, and Malkin, who averages 1.27 points in their matchups.

"I'm not surprised," Sillinger said of the two opposing star centers still being productive. "They do it all. They lead their team. They set the culture of their team and the standard."

--Field Level Media