Penguins vie to push Jackets to brink of elimination

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Pittsburgh Penguins took care of business by winning the first two games on home ice in their first-round NHL playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

If the trend continues, the Penguins could be headed for a short series unless the Blue Jackets turn around their sinking ship.

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday night at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets beat the Penguins there twice during the regular season, but they're not the same team that rang in the new year with a 16-game winning streak on the way to the fourth-best record in the NHL during the regular season.

The Penguins controlled the first two games of the postseason series in Pittsburgh, winning 3-1 on Wednesday and 4-1 on Friday.

Sidney Crosby played a significant role in the Game 2 win with a goal and two assists. His line combination with Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary was particularly impactful with two combined goals.

"They're so elusive," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "They're hard to defend. When they're in that offensive zone, they're as dangerous a line as there is in the game right now."

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets' offensive woes continued after they struggled at the end of the regular season to generate goals while stumbling through a losing streak.

There seems to be no panic in the Blue Jackets, though. Captain Nick Foligno sensed after Friday's return to Columbus that the team will be ready to make a stand at home.

"I can say it was probably the weirdest ride home, only that we're down 2-0 and obviously not really enjoying the situation we're in, but the optimism in our room is incredible and how we feel about our game," he said, according to NHL.com. "That's a great team over there and I'm not discrediting what they're doing, but there's so much good we're doing that it's going to break for us eventually.

"That's the feeling in the room. We're not down. We're excited coming home. We're going to have our fans behind us. It's amazing what that can do for a club."

The Blue Jackets have attacked the Penguins in the offensive zone and often controlled play, but their shots are simply not finding the back of the net.

"Everyone's got to go out there and relax a little bit," Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. "The goals will come. We've scored a lot of goals. We scored 10, eight, seven a couple of times in a game. This team can score some goals."

At least one of the reasons the Blue Jackets have scored only two goals in the first two games of the series is Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He stepped in after scheduled starter Matt Murray was injured before Game 1 and has stood tall.

In Friday's game, he stopped 39 of 40 shots for his 55th career playoff win, one short of the team record set by Tom Barrasso. Murray's status and return is unknown.

"He has been unbelievable," Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz said of Fleury. "He's been huge for us."

Fleury sat out Saturday's practice but is expected to play Sunday, Sullivan said, as are Sheary and defenseman Trevor Daley. They also sat out the workout in Pittsburgh for a maintenance day.

Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl expects to be on the ice after taking a wicked cross-check to the back of the neck from Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Friday night.

"It was more like shoulder, neck," Kuhnhackl said, according to NHL.com. "It happened yesterday. It's a new day. You have to have a short memory in the playoffs.

"I feel all right. Obviously, a little sore. The series is pretty physical, so I think it's normal that you're sore after a game like that."

Calvert, who snapped his stick on the hit, drew a one-game suspension and will sit out the game. The Blue Jackets called up Sonny Milano from Cleveland of the American Hockey League on Saturday.

Columbus coach John Tortorella doesn't plan to tinker with the Blue Jackets' lines despite the scoring woes.

"Our guys are good," Tortorella said. "They're looking forward to another opportunity. That's the way we have to look at this. This is an opportunity to put your best foot forward here."

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