COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sixteen minutes was all it took.
Sidney Crosby scored two goals to extend his point streak to 15 games, and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their ninth straight by routing the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-2 on Saturday night.
The game was essentially over after Crosby’s first goal made it 4-0 with four minutes left in the opening period.
“We capitalized on a few mistakes they made,” said Crosby, who has 17 goals and 14 assists in his streak. “That helped. Obviously when you get a few and get a lead, they start thinking a bit where maybe they need to change things. We were happy with the start.”
A loud capacity crowd—bolstered by several thousand Penguins fans, many wearing Crosby’s No. 87 sweater—seemed primed for a competitive game. But Paul Martin’s two quick power-play goals, one by Michael Rupp and Crosby’s first (also with a man advantage) drained all the suspense.
“Early on, a couple of times, you could see they put pucks in deep and wanted to come real hard on the forecheck and try to set up their game,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “Our guys did a great job of eliminating and executing, getting out there and not allowing them to get into their game. And the power play, getting goals like that in the first period, put us in a good spot.”
The Penguins rolled even without top forward Evgeni Malkin, who was sidelined by a minor knee injury.
Michael Rupp, Tyler Kennedy and Deryk Engelland also scored for the Penguins, who have points in 12 consecutive games (11-0-1). Pittsburgh also got two assists each from Kris Letang and Mark Letestu and won on the road for the sixth straight time.
“The power play kind of took the wind out of their sails early,” said Martin, who doubled his production from the first 27 games. The Penguins were 3-for-4 with an extra man.
The Blue Jackets dropped their fifth in a row, losing by a combined 12-2 in a little over 24 hours. They were shut out for the first time this season, 5-0 at Buffalo, on Friday night.
“There’s nowhere to go but up,” said defenceman Mike Commodore, who had Martin’s pass go off his skate to open the scoring. “They were all over us right from the beginning. They have a good team. We got off to a rough start.”
It got so bad that a huge contingent of Penguins fans chanted, “We want 10!”—in the second period.
Marc-Andre Fleury tied a career high with his eighth straight win, stopping 21 shots.
Crosby, who has five goals in two games, said the Penguins are simply playing hard.
“It’s probably just our level of competing every night,” he said after playing sparingly over the last half of the game and falling just short of his third hat trick in four games. “The last week, two weeks, (it’s) the willingness to compete every night. That’s the biggest thing and it’s not easy to do.”
Chris Clark and Samuel Pahlsson had goals, and Ethan Moreau added two assists for the Blue Jackets, who have lost as many times in the last nine days as they did in the season’s first 33 days.
The Penguins outshot the Blue Jackets 16-2 in the first period and chased goalie Steve Mason. They scored on all three power plays and built a 4-0 lead in those 16 minutes.
After Martin’s lucky bounce went in, Eric Godard’s soft shot from the point somehow slipped past Mason, with Rupp jamming it in.
Martin then skated unimpeded to the right hash mark to score on another power play.
At 15:49, Letestu fired a hard pass to the right of the goal cage where Crosby joined the barrage with a redirect.
“We fell apart after all three of those ugly goals that went in,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “We started the game how we wanted to. The first goal off of a bad bounce in and the next two were awful goals. We could have lived with the first goal. It was the next two that hurt us.”
NOTES: Letang extended his point streak to four games. He has one goal and six assists. … Columbus is 0-6 in weekend home games, and been outscored 28-10 in them. … Crosby has an NHL-high 23 goals in 28 games. Last season he didn’t score his 22nd goal until the 34th game en route to tying for the league lead with 51 goals. … Fleury is 10-0-1 in his last 11 starts. … The game drew 19,143 to make it the second-highest crowd to see an NHL game at Nationwide Arena.