Penguins clip Jackets, earn playoff berth
Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a spot in the playoffs with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
Chris Kunitz and Beau Bennett scored goals in the third period for the Penguins, who had dropped six of eight coming into the contest.
"I felt pretty good," said Fleury. "It's been a while since I won. It was getting frustrating. I just stuck to my game and made the stops. I'm just happy we got the win."
With 99 points, Pittsburgh is all but guaranteed of winning the Metropolitan Division thanks to a 13-point lead over the New York Rangers. Pittsburgh is seven points back of idle Boston for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
James Wisniewski scored the only goal of the game for the Blue Jackets, who have dropped three of their last four but are still hanging on to the top wild card spot. Curtis McElhinney stopped 29 shots in the loss.
"They were just throwing pucks from bad angles and getting it on net every chance they had," said McElhinney. "You know, it's a simple game sometimes and it's just a matter of getting the right bounces."
Columbus, Detroit, Washington and Toronto all have 80 points, but Columbus holds the tiebreaker to lay claim to the first wild card.
This game stayed scoreless until the third period when the Penguins took a 1-0 lead with 9:25 remaining. Deryk Engelland sent a pass up the right side to Sidney Crosby, who gained the bluleline and cut to the middle. Crosby then sent the puck forward to the left circle for Kunitz, who snapped a wrister into the net for his 34rd goal of the year.
Less than a minute later, the Pens got some breathing space as Bennett skated down the right wing and from the circle he snapped a wrister into the left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Blue Jackets made it a one-goal game on the power play with 3:06 to play as Wisniewski blasted a shot from the right point that beat Fleury, as he was screened by Matt Calvert.
Columbus pulled McElhinney with a minute to play, but was unable to tie the game up before time expired.
The Blue Jackets were 1-for-4 on the power play while the Penguins failed on their four chances ... Pittsburgh hosts Chicago on Sunday ... Columbus plays at Carolina on Saturday ... Pittsburgh won all five games against the Blue Jackets this season, including all three in Columbus.
03/29 01:03:25 ET