James Neal notched his second career hat trick and added an assist but he wasn’t the biggest star in the Penguins 8-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets tonight at the Consol Energy Center.
In what was a brilliant display of offensive hockey, the Penguins put on a show getting big nights from several players and they were led by Evgeni Malkin (2G-3A), James Neal (3G-1A) and Sidney Crosby (4A) who combined for 13 points in the victory.
The 8 goals scored by Pittsburgh tied a season high and was the second straight game Pittsburgh put up 8 goals on the Jets. The Penguins have now won 11 straight games against the Jets/Thrashers organization.
Brad Thiessen improved to 3-0 on the season, making 26 saves in his third career NHL start.
The Penguins (45-21-6, 96 pts) moved one point behind the New York Rangers for first place and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers who lost to Florida tonight.
Next up is Nashville Thursday night at home.
Tonight’s Offensive Display
*Evgeni Malkin had 2 goals and 3 assists, collecting his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season. It was Malkin’s second straight five point game against the Jets. Malkin’s second period goal at 11:31 was his 200th career goal. Malkin also had a good day in the faceoff circle, winning 11 of 20 draws (55.0%). Malkin’s big night gives him 93 points on the season, moving him 9 pts ahead of Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux for the NHL points lead.
*Sidney Crosby was tremendous in the win with 4 assists and made Tyler Kennedy look like Steven Stamkos with brilliant setups to Kennedy from behind the goal line. Crosby now has 19 assists in 12 games played this season and 9 assists since returning to the lineup last Thursday. Crosby though was held without a goal for a career high 11th straight game. Crosby who has seen his ice timeÂ gradually increase on a game by game basis, had 19:08 of ice time.
*James Neal had 3 goals and 1 assist and a team-high 10 shots on goal. Neal’s third goal of the game at 17:03 of the third period was a beauty burying a one-timer from Malkin.
*Tyler Kennedy snapped an 18 game goal less streak with 2 goals in the game, finding the right areas in the low slot and putting home beautiful feeds from Crosby with placement of low blocker side shots on both goals. “I know where he’s going to be. He likes to be in the slot, ” — Sidney Crosby on Tyler Kennedy
*Matt Cooke had 2 assists giving the Penguins five players with multi-point games. Cooke now has 4 goals and 2 assists in four games on a line with Sidney Crosby.
— While the results haven’t been there, In the previous couple games the puck movement on the power play has been impressive and the first unit is starting to find some continuity and that showed in the Penguins limited power play time tonight, as the unit had great puck movement and were 1-of-3 on the night. Some scary potential from this group once they figure things out.
— Why the Jets keep coming into Pittsburgh and wanting to play a run and gun style is mind boggling. The Penguins were far from strong defensively but the Jets are no match from a skill standpoint to play a track meet and 9 of 10 times they’re going to lose that way of hockey trying to outscore the Penguins.
— Pascal Dupuis has set a career high in goals, notching his 21st goal of the season at 13:27 of the third period. Dupuis has 8 goals in his last 12 games and extended his points streak to 7 games.
— Jordan Staal had an assist and was 14 of 22 on faceoffs, winning 63.6% of his draws. Staal has 11 assists in his last 12 games.
PIT – 2:04 Tyler Kennedy (7)
Assists: Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke (PIT 1-0)
WPG – 3:35 Jim Slater (10)
Assists: Tanner Glass, Spencer Machacek (1-1)
WPG – 12:51 Bryan Little (20) (Power Play)
Assists: Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom 2 (WPG 2-1)
PIT – 16:44 James Neal (33) (Power Play)
Assists: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby (2-2)
PIT – 1:15 James Neal (34)
Assist: Evgeni Malkin (PIT 3-2)
WPG – 3:54 Bryan Little (21)
Assists: Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom (3-3)
PIT – 6:55 Tyler Kennedy (8)
Assists: Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke (PIT 4-3)
PIT – 11:31 Evgeni Malkin (42)
Assists: Sidney Crosby, Paul Martin (PIT 5-3)
WPG – 14:39 Tim Stapleton (9)
Assists: Ben Maxwell, Spencer Machacek (PIT 5-4)
PIT – 17:03 James Neal (35)
Assists: Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik (PIT 6-4)
PIT – 2:07 Evgeni Malkin (43)
Assists: Chris Kunitz, James Neal (PIT 7-4)
PIT – 13:27 Pascal Dupuis (21)
Assists: Jordan Staal, Steve Sullivan (PIT 8-4)