PITTSBURGH — Jake Guentzel scored twice during a furious second-period surge, and the Pittsburgh Penguins breezed past the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Tuesday night.
Radim Zohorna and Bryan Rust also scored during the second for Pittsburgh. Evgeni Malkin added a power-play goal in the third as the Penguins won their third straight. Tristan Jarry stopped 26 shots to improve to 7-1 in his last eight starts.
Rickard Rakell played 14:08 in his first game with Pittsburgh after being acquired from Anaheim at the trade deadline on Monday.
Gustav Nyquist gave the Blue Jackets an early lead with a power-play goal but Columbus simply couldn't keep up. Joonas Korpisalo had trouble handling the heavy traffic in front of him. Korpisalo made 32 saves but Pittsburgh's relentlessness and some shaky play in front of him dropped his record to 1-5-1 all-time against the Penguins.
Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall insisted he liked the makeup of his team as the deadline approached. He still sent fourth-liners Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese along with goaltending prospect goalie Calle Clang and a second-round draft pick to Anaheim for Rakell, a speedy, versatile wing Hextall believes will help his team take some of the scoring burden off the top line anchored by Guentzel and Sidney Crosby.
Rakell received an ovation when he skated out for his first shift on the third line with Jeff Carter and Kasperi Kapanen. The 10-year NHL veteran also saw time on the second line with Rust and Malkin, something coach Mike Sullivan experimented with thanks to an outburst that showcased how dangerous the Penguins can be when given too much open ice to operate.
Nyquist's 16th goal of the season 8:37 into the first gave the Blue Jackets an early lead that Korpisalo maintained for the rest of the period despite a steady barrage from the Penguins.
Pittsburgh's relentless buzzing continued into the second, and the spark that got the Penguins going came from the unlikely duo of defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and Zohorna, who have combined for 11 points on the season.
Ruhwedel jumped into the play to control a loose puck and fired a shot that Korpisalo couldn't handle. The 6-foot-6 Zohorna corralled the rebound and slammed it in for his fourth career goal 2:40 into the period. The buzz had barely died down when Crosby threaded a cross-ice pass between two Blue Jacket defenders and Korpisalo to a wide-open Guentzel, who flipped it into the net to reach the 30-goal plateau for the second time in his career.
Rust, moved from the first to the second line recently, made it 3-1 with a pretty move around two defenders before walking in to stuff the puck around Korpisalo's outstretched left leg 7:28 into the second. Guentzel redirected a flick from the right circle by Crosby later in the period to push the advantage to 4-1 in a performance that blunted Columbus' recent momentum.
The Blue Jackets came in having won four of five to stay — mathematically anyway — relevant in the playoff chase, though they remain well behind Washington for the second wild card. A listless performance in Pittsburgh edged them closer to elimination. It didn't help that they lost top defenseman Andrew Peeke to an apparent leg injury in the third period with the game well out of reach.
Blue Jackets: Continue a three-game trip on Wednesday at Winnipeg.
Penguins: Visit Buffalo on Wednesday.