COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sidney Crosby scored few uglier goals, but the 260th of his career led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday in Nationwide Arena.
Crosby scored at 10:51 of the third to give the Penguins the lead for good in a game that was tight for 2 1/2 periods. He also assisted on Chris Kunitz's power-play goal two minutes later to pad the lead.
Penguins left winger James Neal had a hat trick, prompting a rain of hats from visiting fans with 2:27 to play.
Pittsburgh backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, making his second start against the Jackets this season, finished with 25 saves.
Left winger Brandon Dubinsky, right winger Corey Tropp and defenseman Nikita Nikitin scored for the Blue Jackets, while goaltender Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves.
The Penguins (29-11-1) won all four meetings between the Metropolitan Division teams this season and are 14-4 vs. division teams.
The Blue Jackets (17-18-4) saw their season-best three-game winning streak end.
Crosby took over in the third.
As the period moved past the midpoint with the game tied 2-2, Crosby carried the puck with speed into the Jackets' zone, and Crosby tried to feather the puck to Kunitz as he crossed the hashmarks.
The puck caromed off Blue Jackets' defenseman Fedor Tyutin and was caught between Tyutin and McElhinney when they collided. The force sent McElhinney tumbling backward, and the puck trickled into the net at 10:51.
That opened the floodgates.
Just 2:07 later, Crosby centered a pass to Kunitz for a snap wrister that beat McElhinney to make it 4-2.
Neal made it 5-2 with his 23rd goal of the season before Nikitin scored in the final minute.
Columbus took a 1-0 lead 3:59 into the game. Dubinsky forced a turnover by Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and beat Zatkoff between his pads from short range.
The Penguins didn't trail for long.
Only 56 seconds after Dubinsky's goal, and 28 seconds into a power play, Neal fired a wrister through traffic from the high slot that beat McElhinney under the crossbar.
The Penguins took a 2-1 lead at 8:34 of the second period on a similar goal by Neal.
This time, Neal created a turnover when he batted a puck out of the air that Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson intended as a clearing pass.
The puck went to Crosby, who passed it back to Neal alone in the high slot for a wrister under the crossbar.
The Blue Jackets pulled even at 2-2 at 13:42 of the second, thanks to a rare goal from Tropp, a fourth-liner who was claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Sabres in early December.
Tropp dragged the puck off his forehand through the legs of Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta, then deked forehand to backhand to get the puck wide of Zatkoff's right pad and into the net.
NOTES: Penguins D Rob Scuderi returned to the lineup after missing 29 games with a fractured ankle. ... Penguins C Evgeni Malkin (lower body) missed his seventh consecutive game, but he could return to face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Columbus plays the Avalanche in Colorado on Tuesday. ... The Blue Jackets recalled RW Ryan Craig from AHL Springfield, but they returned him shortly after the game started, as C Derek MacKenzie was able to dress. ... Two Columbus teammates, C Brandon Dubinsky and RW Blake Comeau, said there were no lingering effects from their fight during Saturday's practice. The two had to be separated by assistant coach Dan Hinote after throwing several punches. "It's over," Comeau said. "The boys in the room loved it."