PITTSBURGH (AP) — Rickard Rakell spent a decade chasing a Stanley Cup in Anaheim. It took him less than 24 hours to jump at the chance to win one in Pittsburgh.
The veteran forward didn’t record a point during his debut with the Penguins in a 5-1 win over Columbus on Tuesday night. It hardly mattered. After watching Jake Guentzel score twice, Evgeni Malkin pump in his 12th goal of the season and Sidney Crosby rack up three assists, Rakell is all in.
“I think growing up those guys (Crosby and Malkin) are your idols and to be in the same room as those guys, (I’m) just going to try and take it all in, try and learn from them and try to pick up small details in the game that could improve my game,” Rakell said. “I’m just going to try and be a sponge and soak it all in.”
Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall sent fourth-liners Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese along with unsigned goaltending prospect goalie Calle Clang and a second-round draft pick to Anaheim for Rakell, a speedy, versatile wing Hextall believes will help his team take some of the scoring burden off the top line anchored by Guentzel and Crosby.
While Rakell admitted his legs weren’t there after dealing with a minor injury in his final days with the Ducks, he had no problems being thrust into the lineup. He spent most of the night skating on the third line with Jeff Carter and Kasperi Kapanen and watched as Pittsburgh’s stars lifted the Penguins to their third straight win.
Guentzel scored twice during a second-period surge that turned a one-goal deficit into a 4-1 lead. Both came off feeds from Crosby, one that let Guentzel fire into a wide-open net. The other on a redirect from in front, a testament to the fearlessness the 5-foot-11 Guentzel brings to the ice each net.
“He sure plays the game like he’s a giant,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said of Guentzel, who is up to 31 goals on the season.
Radim Zohorna and Bryan Rust also scored during the second for Pittsburgh. Malkin added a power-play goal in the third while Tristan Jarry stopped 26 shots to improve to 7-1 in his last eight starts. The Penguins moved into second place in the crowded Metropolitan Division, three points behind first-place Carolina and two points clear of the New York Rangers.
Not bad for a lineup that included a player who took a red-eye from California on Monday night and didn’t arrive at Pittsburgh’s facility until nearly lunchtime on Tuesday in a deal that sent a jolt through his new teammates.
“Getting a caliber player like that shows that they want to win and puts us all on notice that we have something special here,” Guentzel said.
Gustav Nyquist gave the Blue Jackets an early lead with a power-play goal but Columbus simply couldn’t keep up.
“We gave them a couple there and they got rolling,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “You can’t have a second period like that, give them four goals. In the first and third, we were fine. Second period got away from us.”
Joonas Korpisalo had trouble handling the heavy traffic in front of him. Korpisalo made 32 saves but Pittsburgh’s relentlessness and some iffy play in front of him dropped his record to 1-5-1 all-time against the Penguins.
“Second period, didn’t have much chance on any of those,” Larsen said. “Again, bad errors by us. Unfortunately, can’t dig yourselves out of it. So I thought he was fine.”
ON A ROLL
The spark that got the Penguins going came from defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and Zohorna, who have combined for 11 points on the season.
Ruhwedel jumped into the play to control a loose puck and fired a shot that Korpisalo couldn’t handle. The 6-foot-6 Zohorna then knocked it in for his fourth career goal 2:40 into the period.
The buzz had barely died down when Crosby threaded a cross-ice pass between two Blue Jacket defenders and Korpisalo to a wide-open Guentzel, who flipped it into the net to reach 30 goals for the second time in his career.
Rust, moved from the first to the second line recently, made it 3-1 with a pretty move around two defenders before walking in to stuff the puck around Korpisalo’s outstretched left leg 7:28 into the second. Guentzel deflected a flick from the right circle by Crosby later in the period to push the advantage to 4-1.
Blue Jackets: Continue a three-game trip on Wednesday at Winnipeg.
Penguins: Visit Buffalo on Wednesday.
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