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Pens sweep home-and-home vs. Blue Jackets

The SportsXchange

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 on 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.

"It's a good weekend," Engelland said. "We weren't that happy with the way we played on Friday against these guys at home (a 4-2 Penguins win), but we were much better tonight. I don't think we gave them many changes."

Pittsburgh goaltender Jeff Zatkoff made 19 saves for his first NHL shutout and victory.

"Guys played unreal," Zatkoff said. "We didn't give up too much. They started shooting in the third, but nothing really high quality."

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.

"We're not prepared to work hard enough to win," Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. "That's the aggravating part is the consistency is not there for us. We have to work our way out of this, all of us. It starts with individuals before it can happen as a team."

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.

On Saturday, 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 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 Saturday 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 diagnosed with blood clots.

"There wasn't a ton of work," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "As the game went on he was more confident."

The Blue Jackets barely tested Zatkoff. At one point, the Penguins held a 22-10 advantage in shots.

"They were skating," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "There was more skating and urgency on their end. We got off our game and started turning pucks over. They feed off that, and the momentum turns.

"Even though they won on Friday, they came out of that game feeling like we outplayed them and outbattled them. And it wasn't going to happen two nights in a row."

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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