Jake Guentzel’s hat trick pushes Penguins past Blue Jackets
Jake Guentzel celebrated his third career hat trick, scoring twice on slick Sidney Crosby assists to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-2, on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.
More importantly, his three-goal night let the Penguins celebrate a win for the second time in three games — a hint maybe the team’s prolonged slump is ending. They have lost 10 of their past 13 games but now have earned at least a point in four straight.
The Penguins improved to 9-8-5.
Guentzel and Crosby combined twice in the first period to lead 3-1, and Guentzel brought down a rain of hats in the second by chipping a puck past goalie Joonas Korpisalo after Columbus had narrowed the lead down to one.
It was Guentzel’s second hat trick against the Blue Jackets. His first came April 2017 in the playoffs, and he had a four-goal game against the Philadelphia Flyers in last April’s playoffs.
Guentzel leads the Penguins with 11 goals, one ahead of Phil Kessel. He has at least one goal in three of the past four games.
Tanner Pearson scored the Penguins’ first goal. Kris Letang had three assists, and Crosby had two. Scott Harrington and Cam Atkinson scored for Columbus (13-8-2).
The teams combined for four first-period goals. The first three came one after another in about a 2-minute span.
A straight-on wrist shot from Harrington at 5:14 broke a scoreless tie, but their advantage lasted only 45 seconds before Pearson and Guentzel scored back to back for the Penguins.
The Penguins goals came 88 seconds apart. Pearson buried a Kessel rebound for the tying goal, and Guentzel took the lead at 7:27 on a Crosby assist. From the right post, Crosby flipped a no-look, backhand pass to Guentzel, who beat Korpisalo with a driving shot from the slot.
Crosby and Guentzel connected again later in the first to lead 3-1. Crosby fought through Marcus Nutivaara, knocked the defenseman to the ice and slipped another backhand pass to Guentzel. This time, Guentzel beat Korpisalo with a high, blocker-side shot.
The goals were Guentzel’s ninth and 10th.
Guentzel nearly finished the hat trick midway through the second when his breakaway backhand bounced off the near post behind Korpisalo.
With 6:56 left in the second, Atkinson pulled Columbus to 3-2 with a hard shot that snuck between Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith’s legs. The goal was Atkinson’s 15th and extended his goal-scoring streak to seven games.
The Penguins answered again, and this time Guentzel completed his hat trick. Guentzel chipped a puck lying in the crease past Korpisalo.
The game was defenseman Jack Johnson’s first against his former team. Johnson played seven seasons and 456 games with the Blue Jackets.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.