COLUMBUS, Ohio -- At this rate, the Pittsburgh Penguins
will be hanging their next banner -- "Metropolitan Division champions" -- in the rafters by early winter.
The Penguins cruised to a 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets
Saturday night in front of 18,634 in Nationwide Arena, sweeping a pair of weekend games against their closest geographical NHL rivals. Deryk Engelland
, Chris Kunitz
and Jussi Jokinen
scored for Pittsburgh, which won its fourth straight game.
Pittsburgh goaltender Jeff Zatkoff
made 19 saves for his first NHL shutout and victory.
The Blue Jackets, who have lost three straight, were shutout for the first time this season.
Curtis McElhinney, subbing from struggling starter Sergei Bobrovsky
, made 24 saves for the Blue Jackets.
The win pushed Pittsburgh to 11-4-0 (22 points), giving them a seven-point lead over the second-place New York Islanders in the division. The Penguins are the only team in the "Metro" with a winning record.
Last night, it wasn't their superstars -- Sidney Crosby
, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, etc. -- who did the damage.
Engellend, a defensemen turned fourth-line winger, scored at 6:46 of the second period off a set-up by Joe Vitale.
The lead grew to 2-0 only 47 seconds into the third period when Chris Kunitz scored off a turnover by Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson.
Jokinen scored into an empty net with 38 seconds remaining to close out the scoring.
The Blue Jackets never led during this weekend home-and-home series, including a 4-2 loss Friday at Pittburgh's Consol Energy Center.
Worse, the Jackets goaltending situation has turned surprisingly shaky.
Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina Trophy last season as the NHL's top goaltender, was pulled in the second period of Friday's game and remained benched yesterday in favor of McElhinney, a journeyman.
Penguins goaltenders, meanwhile, were barely tested this weekend.
Zatkoff, 26, had spent the last three seasons in the minor leagues, but was elevated as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup late in the preseason when Tomas Vokoun was stricken with blood clots.
The Blue Jackets barely tested Zatkoff. At one point, the Penguins held a 22-10 advantage in shots.
NOTES: During the first TV timeout, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman appeared on the main scoreboard in Nationwide Arena to announce that the 2015 All-Star Game will be played in Columbus on Jan. 25, 2015. Columbus had been awarded the 2013 game, but it was canceled due to the lockout that cut the season to 48 games. ... After five straight healthy scratches, Blue Jackets D Nikita Nikitin was back in the lineup. ... The Penguins held Columbus without a shot on goal for the final 15:54 of the first period.
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- Columbus Blue Jackets
- The Penguins
- Jeff Zatkoff
- Chris Kunitz