Sidney Crosby grabbed a goal and two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled away for a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in game two of their first-round play-off series.
Jake Guentzel added a goal and an assist to help the defending Stanley Cup champions take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal of the post-season, and Patric Hornqvist pushed in an empty-net goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 39 saves while filling in for the injured Matt Murray, and received plenty of help. Pittsburgh blocked 23 shots before they even got to Fleury.
Brandon Saad scored for Columbus, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots.
Evgeni Malk-IN THE GOAL! pic.twitter.com/pZN8X0NZsD
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 15, 2017
Fleury admitted to some jitters when he was suddenly thrust into the lineup with barely 20 minutes to prepare after Murray was a late scratch before Game One with a lower-body injury. He responded with a 31-save masterpiece.
Murray is out indefinitely, returning Fleury to the spot he held for a decade while becoming the most successful goaltender in franchise history.
His club-record 102nd playoff appearance looked an awful lot like his 101st, when he held the Blue Jackets in check during an early push, before the NHL’s best offense found its footing.
The awakening came earlier than in the series opener. Crosby turned Pittsburgh’s first shot of the game into the 50th playoff goal of his career, though he had the easy part – settling the puck at the doorstep then flipping it into a wide-open net.
Sheary did the hard part – poke-checking the puck away from Bobrovsky behind the Columbus net and getting it to Guentzel in front. Guentzel then slid it to Crosby and the Penguins were in control.
— ColumbusBlueJackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) April 15, 2017
Saad gave the Blue Jackets a jolt when his wrist shot from the left circle zipped over Fleury’s glove seven minutes into the second.
The momentum lasted all of 51 seconds, as Crosby and Guentzel broke in a two-on-one. Crosby fed it to Guentzel and the 22-year-old rookie opted not to give it to back to the league’s leading goal scorer and instead sent a shot that Bobrovsky’s outstretched left pad couldn’t reach.
Columbus’ best chance to draw even came late in the second when Pittsburgh defender Brian Dumolin went off for holding. The Blue Jackets produced a handful of chances only to see Cole or another of the Penguins’ penalty killers drop to their knees to block shots.
Pittsburgh held steady and when Malkin buried a pass from Crosby a second after a Columbus penalty expired 2:01 into the third, the Penguins were in firmly control.
Game Three is Sunday night in Columbus.
The Penguins wore a decal on their helmets that featured the logo of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, to honor longtime Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who passed away on Thursday aged 84. The team also held a pregame moment of silence and put together a video tribute that aired in the arena during a first-period stoppage in play. Fleury’s 55 playoff wins are one behind Tom Barrasso for the most in team history. The Blue Jackets have not led at any point during their four games at PPG Paints Arena this season.
Friday’s other NHL results:
New York Rangers 3-4 Montreal Canadiens
St Louis Blues 2-1 Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks 0-2 Edmonton Oilers