PITTSBURGH (AP) — Patric Hornqvist scored twice, Matt Murray stopped 37 shots and the Pittsburgh Penguins returned from the All-Star break with a 4-2 win over Nashville on Tuesday night.
Trevor Daley and Chris Kunitz also scored for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who had lost two in a row. Sidney Crosby picked up an assist on Hornqvist’s first goal for the 994th point of his career.
Calle Jarnkrok scored his eighth goal and Colin Wilson added his seventh for the Predators. Pekka Rinne made 35 saves, but the Penguins dominated the second period behind Hornqvist.
The veteran forward moved back to the top line alongside Crosby and Conor Sheary and responded immediately by picking up his 13th and 14th goals within a 5:05 span in the second to help the Penguins take control.
Pittsburgh went through a bit of a hiccup heading into the break, getting shut out at home against St. Louis and then falling 4-3 in Boston to fall a bit off the pace of front-running Washington in the hypercompetitive Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins returned home without center Evgeni Malkin, who missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury, but defenseman Kris Letang played a team-high 23:45 after sitting out six games with a lower-body injury of his own.
Letang helped Pittsburgh keep the front of the net relatively clutter free for Murray, who won for the fifth time in his last seven starts.
Hornqvist, as is his way, spent plenty of time being a nuisance in front of Rinne. The teams traded goals in the first period before Daley gave Pittsburgh the lead with a breakaway slap shot from just outside the left circle 3:10 into the second. Hornqvist got his first of the night just past the game’s midway point, circling behind the Nashville net then banking it off Rinne to make it 3-1.
Just over five minutes later Hornqvist showcased why he’s so valuable in traffic. Nick Bonino tried to shoot the puck from the slot but whiffed. Nashville’s Matt Irwin was in position to send it out of harm’s way. Hornqvist lifted Irwin’s stick and in one motion swept flipped the puck by a sprawled and stickless Rinne to give Murray more than enough cushion.
Wilson drew the Predators within two with a power-play goal 3:18 into the third, but Nashville never really threatened to get closer. The Predators fell in regulation for the first time this season in a game in which they scored the first goal, falling to 15-1-5 in those games.
NOTES: Nashville went 1 for 2 on the power play. Pittsburgh was 1 for 3 with the man advantage. … Nashville scratched D Brad Hunt and Fs Derek Grant and Mike Ribeiro. … The Penguins scratched D Chad Ruhwedel with Letang back. … The Penguins turned off all water fountains, soda fountains and ice machines at PPG Paints Arena as a precaution after the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority issued a boil water advisory for portions of the city. … The Penguins called up forward Carter Rowney from AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and made the 27-year-old the third-line center. Rowney played 9:20 between Carl Hagelin and Bryan Rust. … Nashville D Yannick Weber left in the second period after taking a puck to the face.
Predators: Open a three-game homestand on Thursday against Edmonton. Nashville edged the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout on Jan. 20.
Penguins: host Columbus on Friday. The Blue Jackets won the first meeting between the clubs 7-1 on Dec. 22.
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