Malkin, Crosby Lift Pens
PITTSBURGH – Evgeni Malkin scored in his return from a lower-body injury, Sidney Crosby added his 16th goal, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Monday night.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots for the Penguins, who won their sixth straight home game.
Malkin missed two games last week after being injured during a morning skate. He looked fine while bulling his way toward the net 4:16 into the second period for his eighth goal of the season. Crosby pushed his season-point total to an NHL-best 43 when he deflected in a shot by Pascal Dupuis midway through the third.
Matt Calvert scored with less than a minute left for Columbus, spoiling Fleury’s shutout bid. Curtis McElhinney made 28 saves but the Blue Jackets struggled again in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have won all three meetings this season by a combined score of 9-3.
Fleury was sharp when tested, though the Penguins did an excellent job of keeping the Blue Jackets from spending too much time in his face.
There were few close calls by the Blue Jackets after the opening 10 minutes. Fleury’s only mistake came when he narrowly missed scoring a goal into an empty net with a minute to play, inadvertently sparking a sequence that led to Calvert getting loose for his second goal of the season with 56 seconds left.
Pittsburgh, which allowed two goals to the Boston Bruins in the final minute of a loss on Saturday, didn’t collapse this time.
Malkin extended his point streak to 10 games. He took a cross-ice feed from Jussi Jokinen and dispatched Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson before flicking the puck past McElhinney’s outstretched stick.
Crosby doubled Pittsburgh’s lead 8:52 into the third when Dupuis’ centering pass caromed off Crosby’s body into the Columbus net.
The Blue Jackets are hoping to take a step forward this season after moving over to the Eastern Conference following 13 mostly dismal seasons in the West. Injuries, however, have slowed their development.
Columbus is missing forwards Marion Gaborik and Nathan Horton, defenseman James Wisniewski, and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Gaborik and Bobrovsky are out until after the new year. Horton is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.
The Blue Jackets had won three of four, including consecutive shutouts over Tampa Bay and Minnesota, to climb within three games of .500. Columbus lost 10 of its first 14 games.
Pittsburgh was without defensemen Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi, and as forwards Beau Bennett and Tanner Glass. The Penguins will also miss forward James Neal, who was suspended for five games by the NHL on Monday for kneeing Boston’s Brad Marchand in the first period Saturday.
Moments later, Boston’s Shawn Thornton pulled Orpik down from behind then punched him on his way to the ice.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said Monday that Orpik is “doing quite well” but issued no timetable for his return.