Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Pick & Prediction MARCH 5th 2024

The Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Columbus Blue Jackets figure to be in much different places emotionally when they meet Tuesday.

The Penguins are coming off a soul-crushing weekend that not only reduced their already slim chances of making the playoffs, but also more than likely convinced president of hockey operations and general manager Kyle Dubas to be a seller leading up to the NHL’s trade deadline on Friday.

What was seen as a defining four-game trip west started off well when Pittsburgh downed the Vancouver Canucks — then the top team in the league — by a score of 4-3 in overtime for a third straight win on Feb. 27.

However, things got progressively worse from there.

The Penguins got shut out 2-0 by the Seattle Kraken before sustaining one of their worst losses of the season, blowing a two-goal, third-period lead against the Calgary Flames and losing 4-3 in regulation. To cap things off, 24 hours later, Pittsburgh got blown out 6-1 by the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

That left the Penguins dragging themselves home with a three-game losing streak and the unspoken reality that at least some of the players on the roster likely won’t be there by the weekend. The most intrigue surrounds top-line winger Jake Guentzel, who is eligible to come off long-term injured reserve this weekend and has established himself as a strong fit with superstar center Sidney Crosby, the team captain.

“It’s tough right now,” Pittsburgh defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “It really, really stinks right now. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling.”

The Penguins are trying not to let the upcoming deadline affect them, however.

“We still need to get points. It’s the same situation” as before those losses, Crosby said.

It’s still the same situation for the Blue Jackets, too. They remain last in the Eastern Conference.

However, while elimination from playoff contention is not much more than a formality that will happen soon enough, Columbus will arrive in Pittsburgh with some momentum.

The Blue Jackets won their second straight game on Monday, and they did it by downing the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights 6-3.

Columbus has back-to-back wins for the first time since Nov. 22 and 24 and will be looking for its first three-game winning streak of the season.

“They’re starting to believe in each other and play for each other,” Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent said of his players. “That changes everything.”

Former Penguins forward Alexander Nylander got his first career hat trick Monday for the Blue Jackets. He came over less than two weeks ago in a deal that sent forward Emil Bemstrom to Pittsburgh.

Nylander has four goals and six points in five games with Columbus, while Bemstrom scored in his first game with the Penguins but has no points in the four games since.

“Great team win,” Nylander told Bally Sports Ohio. “The staff and my teammates have been great. Made it really comfortable for me to come in here. Just enjoying it every day here. And can’t wait for the next game.”

Looking ahead to facing the Penguins, he said with a smile, “I’m ready.”

The Metropolitan Division foes have met just once this season, a 5-3 Penguins win Nov. 14 at Columbus in which Crosby had a hat trick and an assist.

–Field Level Media

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