PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — James Neal recorded a his first hat trick as a Penguin, Evgeni Malkin added two goals and four assists and Sidney Crosby tallied four assists as the Penguins routed the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday, 8-4.
Neal seemingly always had an answer to Winnipeg.
After the Jets took a 2-1 lead on Bryan Little’s 20th goal of the season, Neal took a beautiful feed from Crosby and Malkin to knot the game up at two going into the first intermission.
Neal broke that tie 1:15 into the second period with his 33rd goal of the season for a 3-2 Penguins lead.
Little scored again at the 3:54 mark of play. Tyler Kennedy followed with his eighth goal of the season and second of the game three minutes later and Malkin scored his 42nd of the year at the 11:31 mark for a 5-3 Penguins lead, assisted by Crosby.
“You always work hard and prepare, get ready to come back,” Crosby said, according to the Penguins website. “There are still areas where I need to get sharper, but with everyone playing it makes it easier for anyone coming back.”
Tim Stapleton closed the gap to 5-4 with 5:21 left in the second, and that lead held until Neal struck again with 2:57 before intermission for a 6-4 Penguins lead.
Malkin scored his 43rd goal of the season and second of the game just over two minutes into the second period for a 7-4 lead and all the momentum. Pascal Dupuis added an insurance goal for an 8-4 Pittsburgh win.
Kennedy opened the scoring at 2:04 of the first period.
“I know where he’s going to be,” Crosby said. “He likes to be in the slot and fire the puck. That’s where I’m looking. He knows how to score goals. He goes to those areas and I just got to get it to him there and let him shoot.”
Jim Slater tied the game up a a minute and-a-half later and Little gave the Jets their only lead of the game at the 12:51 mark of the first period.
The win brings the Penguins to within one point of the New York Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.