PITTSBURGH (AP) — Patric Hornqvist picked up his 20th goal of the season, Matt Murray finished with 37 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins sped past the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Jake Guentzel and Carter Rowney also scored for Pittsburgh. Brian Dumolin added his first regular season goal in more than two years as the Penguins moved three points ahead of Columbus in the race to have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Pittsburgh won its third straight to inch closer to opening its Stanley Cup defense at home thanks in large part to Murray and offensive contributions from unexpected places.
Brandon Dubinsky scored short-handed for Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots but the Blue Jackets dropped a season-high fourth straight and have ceded control of the second seed in the Metropolitan Division to Pittsburgh with three games to go.
The teams are almost assured of facing each other when the playoffs begin next week, a rematch from a 2014 first-round series the Penguins won in six taut games and seemed to signal Columbus’ arrival as a legitimate contender.
Three years later, Columbus has officially arrived, though the team that spent the better part of 60 minutes chasing the Penguins around sold-out PPG Paints Arena hardly looked like the one that came in 2-0-1 over its first three meetings of the season. The Blue Jackets tried to push the Penguins around, rattling the boards in the process but not Pittsburgh.
The Penguins’ fourth line helped bolster a largely lifeless performance in a victory over Carolina on Sunday and the momentum carried over. Rowney put Pittsburgh in front with 1:09 left in the first period when he planted himself in front of Bobrovsky and redirected a feed from Scott Wilson over Bobrovsky’s shoulder.
Hornqvist doubled Pittsburgh’s lead just before the game’s midway point, though linemate Tom Kuhnhackl did all the work. Kuhnhackl tracked down a loose puck in the defensive zone the raced end-to-end down the left wing, fending off Oliver Bjorkstrand in the process before sliding a crossing pass to a streaking Hornqvist that found the open net.
Dumoulin, who scored a pair of goals during last year’s run to the Cup, reached the back of the net in the regular season for the first time since Dec. 15, 2014, when he saved a clear at the edge of the blue line, carried the puck behind the Columbus net then saw his wraparound smack off Cam Atkinson and in, ending a 151-game regular season goalless drought.
When Guentzel deflected a Justin Schultz shot from the point by Bobrovsky 33 seconds into the third, the Penguins were in firm control.
Dubinsky’s 12th of the year midway through the third spoiled Murray’s shutout bid but served as little solace for the Blue Jackets.
NOTES: Columbus rookie D Zack Werenski did not play while dealing with an upper-body injured suffered in a loss to Washington on Sunday. … Penguins D Trevor Daley skated on Tuesday morning and is hopeful to return before the postseason begins. Daley hasn’t played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Feb. 23. … The Penguins went 0 for 3 on the power play. The Blue Jackets were 0 for 1. … Pittsburgh’s 109 points tied the 2013-14 team for the second-highest total in club history.
Blue Jackets: Host Winnipeg on Thursday.
Penguins: End regular season with three-game road trip starting in New Jersey on Thursday.
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