|4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET21:00 BRT, March 9, 2019
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio Attendance: 19,146
Pens head to Columbus in search of season sweep
Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets
- The Penguins have won all three meetings between the clubs this season, each one by at least two goals. Since February 16, Pittsburgh has allowed two goals in two wins over the Blue Jackets and 28 in eight games against all other teams.
- Pittsburgh's current three-game winning streak is the team's longest since the Pens won eight straight contests between December 19 and January 4. The Penguins have earned points in six straight road games (4-0-2), scoring at least three goals in each one.
- The Blue Jackets have scored a total of three goals in their last four games (1-3-0). In the team's last 13 games, the power play is 3-for-34 (8.8 percent); in that stretch, Columbus has been shut out three times and has shut out its opponents on three occasions.
- Matt Murray has a .969 save percentage in his last three games, stopping 93 of 96 shots. In the month of March in his career, Murray is 15-5-3 with a .914 save percentage; he is 8-1-1 in 10 career starts versus Columbus.
- The Blue Jackets have eight goals in their last four home games, with Artemi Panarin scoring or assisting on five of them. Panarin is minus-7 in his last three games versus Pittsburgh; he was plus-11 in his first eight career games against the Penguins.
- Since February 11, the Blue Jackets are allowing the second-fewest shots on goal per game in the NHL at 27.5; Pittsburgh is yielding 35.0, which is tied for fourth most. However, Pittsburgh has a .924 save percentage in that time, ranking eighth in the league, while Columbus is tied for 19th at .905.
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The Pittsburgh Penguins can sweep the four-game season series Saturday when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In fact, the Penguins have won eight in a row against the Blue Jackets and are 9-0-1 in the teams' past 10 meetings after they won the front half of home-and-home series Thursday 3-0.
Pittsburgh moved four points ahead of Columbus with that win as both teams try to ensure a postseason appearance.
"I'm not sure there's a valid explanation," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan told reporters of his team's domination of the Metropolitan Division and regional rival Blue Jackets. "All I can tell you is, every game we play them is a hard-fought battle and the margin for error is slim."
The teams combined for 94 hits Thursday, and Pittsburgh frustrated the Blue Jackets with 24 blocked shots -- one less than the 25 that got through to Penguins goaltender Matt Murray.
Murray figures to start again Saturday after he picked up his fourth shutout this season, 10th of his career. He is 8-1-1 in his career against Columbus.
Things are murkier in net with the Blue Jackets, who have lost four of six.
Joonas Korpisalo was strong in making 28 saves Thursday, but he was a surprise starter. No. 1 goalie and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who has struggled against Pittsburgh in recent seasons, was a healthy scratch. Second-stringer Keith Kinkaid, a trade-deadline acquisition who is 6-3-2 in his career against the Penguins, dressed as Korpisalo's backup.
It won't much matter, of course, if Columbus can't score.
"We're still not totally in flow offensively," said Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, whose club has three goals (not counting a shootout marker) in going 1-3 its past four games. "I think we need something good to happen."
Tortorella switched up his approach before Thursday's game, saying he told his players "two very simple points" and then he wanted to "open the gate, just like a bunch of horses, letting them out and, 'Go play.'"
He also urged them to think about shinny hockey and pond hockey, but it didn't work.
In its three losses to Pittsburgh this season, Columbus has been outscored 12-4. The Blue Jackets' current scoreless drought is 124 minutes, 8 seconds, since Cam Atkinson's goal in the first minute of Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win against New Jersey.
"Scoring and not scoring are both contagious," Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene told NHL.com. "I have no explanation for it. We just have to work through it. Eventually, we're going to get a cheap (goal), and then we're going to feel good. We get the monkey off our back, and we'll go."
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, conversely, brings a season-long six-game goal streak into the contest. He has 14 points during that streak, while linemate Jake Guentzel has four goals and seven points in the past three games.
The Penguins got something of a bonus Thursday when sniper Phil Kessel scored to end a 16-game goal drought that had become both a point of frustration and a sideshow around Pittsburgh.
"I think it was just ... I got lucky," Kessel said. "Maybe now I can get a hot streak going."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 8, 2019