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Zatkoff, Neal Stellar in Penguins 5-3 Rout of Columbus Blue Jackets

December 30th, 2013 at 12:25 PM
By Shane Darrow

When doctors discovered blood clots in Tomas Vokoun's leg before the regular season started, it was uncertain who would be able to efficiently backup starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Enter Jeff Zatkoff. 

Zatkoff stopped 25 of 28 shots against the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday night and picked up his seventh straight victory as the Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3.

In the first two periods, Zatkoff made countless saves in order to keep the game close. His rebound control appeared shaky at times, but he was able to find his positioning quickly in order to stop multiple Blue Jackets on the doorstep. 

Zatkoff may have surrendered a goal in each period, but the first two were due to Penguins defensemen leaving him out to dry, and the Blue Jackets third goal came with only 1:29 remaining in the game and the Pens had already sealed the victory. 

Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi both made their return from injury Sunday night, and while Orpik looked like his old self, Scuderi looked nervous and unsure of his abilities.

Columbus scored four minutes into the game to take a 1-0 lead when Brandon Dubinsky picked the puck up on the side wall and made a move around Joe Vitale and then Scuderi before sliding it five-hole through Zatkoff. Scuderi should have stepped up and attempted to take the body on Dubinsky, but instead he stood still and flailed his stick around attempting to poke check him. 

After James Neal tied it later in the first, and then scored again to give the Pens a 2-1 lead in the second, more sloppy play by the Penguins defensemen led to the Blue Jackets getting an equalizer. 

A poor turnover by Matt Niskanen at his own blue line allowed Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner to send the puck across the ice to Cory Tropp as he entered the zone. Tropp, who only has five career goals in the NHL, would toe drag the puck through the feet of Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and then slide the puck under Zatkoff's pad after a deke to his forehand. 

The goal was pretty, but it was easily preventable. 

The Penguins tightened up defensively and Neal continued his offensive presence in the third. When it was all said and done, Neal contributed on all five of the Penguins goals, racking up three goals and two assists. It was Neal's fourth career hat trick. 

Sidney Crosby's goal with just over nine minutes to play in the third gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead, and power play goals by Chris Kunitz and Neal soon after put the Pens up 5-2 and sealed the win. 
Crosby finished with three points and now leads the NHL with 58. 
The Penguins will be back in action on Tuesday afternoon, when they travel to New Jersey to take on the Devils at 1:00 p.m. EST. 



Tags: Hockey, NHL, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Penguins

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