Penguins end skid, extend Predators' slide

Vince Comunale, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins sent the Nashville Predators to their fourth straight defeat with a 4-1 victory on Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
"We've got too many guys that when it gets tough they're feeling sorry for themselves," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Well, I don't feel sorry for anybody right now."
Four players scored for the Penguins. Left winger James Neal and centers Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter had two-point nights.
Both teams entered the game mired in three-game losing streaks. Nashville had been outscored 13-1 in its previous three games and Pittsburgh managed to score just three goals in its previous three games.
For Nashville, the game marked the end of a franchise record-tying seven-game road trip. For the Penguins, it was the second game of a run of 11 games in 18 days.
The Predators got the scoring going early at 2:28 of the first period with a little puck luck.
Defenseman Kevin Klein fired a shot from the point that wildly pin-balled off Malkin's stick, off Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta's skate to Nashville left winger Gabriel Borque's skate, through the five-hole of Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, off the right post and finally into the Pittsburgh net.
The Penguins got good pressure on their first power-play opportunity of the game but did not score. However, they used that momentum to score just seconds later when Brandon Sutter won a faceoff in the left circle, pushed the puck to right winger Matt D'Agostini, who then shoveled it back to left winger Pascal Dupuis.
Dupuis then one-timed a shot by Nashville goaltender Marek Mazanec and into the upper right corner of the net to tie the score at 1. The goal came at 12:36 and snapped a 12-game drought without a goal for Dupuis. D'Agostini's assist on the goal gave him his first point as a Penguin.
While the Penguins didn't capitalize on their first power play, they made no mistake on their second opportunity. Malkin, positioned at the point, fired a laser of a slap shot that Neal masterfully deflected up and over the blocker of Mazanec. The goal was Neal's first of the season and came at 15:56. Malkin's assist extended his assists streak to six games.
"I'm on the side of the net there and (Malkin's) got a lane to me and he puts it right where I can get a stick on it," Neal said. "It's a great play by him from the point."
One of the few highlights for the Predators came just as the Penguins seemed poised to take a two-goal lead at 14:17 of the second period. Mazanec slid from one side of the crease to the other just in time make an acrobatic glove save on Neal's attempted one-timer of a Malkin cross-ice pass.
The Penguins did get that elusive third goal at 7:58 of the second period when defenseman Kris Letang, down from his position along the blue line, took a Malkin pass from behind the net and unloaded a one-timer from the bottom of the right faceoff circle that sailed through the pads of the Nashville netminder. Center Sidney Crosby picked up a secondary assist on the goal to add to his league-leading points total.
"I thought the second (period) we really took over the game, shift
after shift and played in the offensive zone," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
Sutter got in on the scoring at 18:37 of the second period when he took a drop pass from left winger Jussi Jokinen and wristed a frozen rope over the left shoulder of Mazanec off the iron and in to put the Penguins ahead by three.
"We gave up (33) shots against a high-powered offense tonight. You can't expect your goalie to stop them all," Nashville center Mike Fisher said.
A scary moment occurred near the end of the second period when Nashville left winger Eric Nystrom took exception to a hard hit from Pittsburgh left winger Tanner Glass. Nystrom challenged Glass to a fight and he obliged, eventually catching Nystrom with a blow to the back of the head that bloodied Nystrom and knocked him to the ice.
Nystrom was clearly dazed and needed assistance in getting to the Nashville locker room. He did not return to the game and will be re-evaluated on Saturday.
Fleury made 17 saves for his 11th win of the season. Mazanec took the loss, making 21 saves in two periods of work before being lifted for Carter Hutton in the third.
"It was a good game. Overall, we did a lot of good things ... a solid game from the guys," Fleury said.
NOTES: Pittsburgh LW Chris Kunitz and D Deryk Engelland played in their 600th and 200th games, respectively. ... Friday's game was Nashville's 12th road game of the season. Only Anaheim, Edmonton and Vancouver have played more road games. ... Kunitz went back-to-back games without a point for the first time since March 29-30, 2012, when he failed to record a point against the Flyers on Wednesday. Kunitz and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis were the only two players in the NHL to go the entire season last year without going pointless in back-to-back games. ... Nashville rookie D Seth Jones leads all NHL first-year players in average ice time. ... Scratches for the Penguins were C Dustin Jeffrey and D Robert Bortuzzo. Scratches for the Predators were C Matt Hendricks, LW Rich Clune and D Victor Bartley. ... Both teams will be in action again on Saturday. The Penguins will be at New Jersey and the Predators will host Chicago. ... The official attendance was 18,606.

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