McCann, second-period burst leads Pens past Blue Jackets
By DAN SCIFO Associated Press
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins rebounded from a season-opening dud.
Jared McCann scored twice as the Penguins had five goals in the second period to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-2 on Saturday night.
The offensive outburst helped Pittsburgh rediscover its confidence after making 17 turnovers in a home loss to Buffalo on Thursday.
Pittsburgh scored five goals on 14 second-period shots. The last time Pittsburgh scored five goals in a period came on Jan. 16, 2017, against Washington.
“I thought our confidence built as the game went on,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we were playing on our toes and I thought we mounted a pretty good attack. There’s still some areas where we know we have to clean up, but I thought the guys played hard.”
The Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin left in the second period and did not return with an undisclosed injury. He ran into D Kris Letang near center ice and awkwardly fell into the boards. Malkin, the 2012 NHL MVP, scored a power-play goal against Buffalo on Thursday.
Center Nick Bjugstad also left and didn’t return for Pittsburgh. Sullivan said after the game that Malkin and Bjugstad were being evaluated and he didn’t have an update on their status.
McCann tied a career high with three points. The other time came as a member of the Florida Panthers when he had a goal and two assists on March 20, 2018. McCann scored two goals once with Pittsburgh on March 23 last season against Dallas.
“It’s huge, but I can’t take all the credit,” McCann said. “My linemates did most of the work and found me. I just tried to get it to the net.”
Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Letang had a power-play goal, while Teddy Blueger and Marcus Pettersson also scored for Pittsburgh. Alex Galchenyuk, acquired from Arizona in a trade for Phil Kessel, recorded two assists for his first two points with Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby also had two assists.
Matt Murray made 28 saves and is now two wins from 100 in his NHL career.
Gustav Nyquist scored his first goal for Columbus and Zach Werenski scored for the Blue Jackets, who lost their second game in as many days. Columbus lost its season-opener 4-1 to Toronto at home and has been outscored 11-3 in two games. Elvis Merzlikins stopped 31 shots in his NHL debut.
“It’s an opportunity for us right away at the beginning of the year to teach about patience, to teach about how we have to play,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “Hopefully, we’ll go about it the right way.”
Pittsburgh opened the scoring at 1:45 of the second when Hornqvist tipped Jack Johnson’s point shot past Merzlikins. The Penguins took a 2-0 lead 2:29 later when Pettersson’s shot from the top of the left circle caromed off Merzlikins’ glove and behind the line.
Not long after Pittsburgh’s second goal, Werenski was left alone at the right side of the crease and cut the Blue Jackets’ deficit in half.
But the Penguins regained their two-goal cushion, 3-1, two minutes later when McCann sent a blocker-side wrist shot behind Merzlikins during a two-on-one.
McCann scored his second goal of the game 14 seconds after a fighting major to Crosby, his first in four years. McCann took a backhand pass from Galchenyuk at the blue line and sent another blocker-side wrist shot past Merzlikins.
Letang scored Pittsburgh’s fifth goal of the second period with 1.2 seconds to play. He beat Merzlikins with a slap shot from the right faceoff dot.
“It took us awhile to find our swagger,” McCann said. “That’s something that this team needs to play with. We have guys who have so much skill and need to make plays, but sometimes we just have to keep it simple.”
NOTES: Crosby passed Larry Murphy for sole possession of 42nd-place on the NHL’s all-time points list with 1,218. … Werenski, with 39 goals, is two from the Blue Jackets’ record for most by a defenseman. … Murray has nine wins in 12 games all-time against Columbus. … Pittsburgh has won eight straight home games against Columbus and 16 of 20 all-time. … The Penguins have won eight of their last 10 games against Columbus. … Brandon Tanev and Dominik Kahun, acquired in the offseason, recorded their first points with Pittsburgh.
Blue Jackets: Host Buffalo on Monday
Penguins: Continue a season-opening four-game homestand Tuesday against Winnipeg.
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