Penguins 4, Jets 1

James Neal saw his goal almost before he scored it. Definitely

before Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec did anyway.

His score 22 seconds into the third period put Pittsburgh ahead

and the Penguins scored two more goals in the final 20 minutes to

beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 Friday night.

”When you’re playing with that confidence and you’re playing

with that attitude, you do visualize,” Neal said. ”When I get the

puck on my stick, I know exactly where I’m going to put it. I try

to get it off as quick as I can.”

Neal’s team-leading 20th goal of the season was followed by

goals from Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis within the first 5

minutes of the period. Joe Vitale also scored, Chris Kunitz had a

pair of assists and Marc-Andre Fleury had to make only 18 saves for

Pittsburgh, which won its third straight.

A diving Evgeni Malkin managed to slide the puck to Neal, who

calmly beat Pavelec from right in front.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma caused a stir when he showed up

behind the Penguins bench wearing a festive green sweater featuring

a Christmas tree and a reindeer.

”It seemed to get a nice reaction from the fans,” Bylsma

said.

The loss concluded Winnipeg’s six-game homestand, which included

three games in four nights. They went 3-2-1 during that span.

The Jets were coming off a 4-0 win over Montreal on

Thursday.

”I don’t think it was work ethic that was the problem,” Jets

coach Claude Noel said. ”There was fatigue, there was some things

about some guys that didn’t have legs much … I thought there was

some things that happen when you play this many games.”

Alexander Burmistrov scored midway through the second period and

Pavelec stopped 35 shots for the Jets. Winnipeg finished its

six-game homestand with a 3-2-1 record.

Jets forward Jim Slater had a great scoring chance early in the

first, scooping up a turnover and breaking in alone on Fleury with

a shot that clanged off the cross bar.

Vitale put in a rebound at 13:39 of the first to record his

second goal of the season.

While the Jets spent a lot of time in the Pittsburgh zone, they

couldn’t get many shots on net and were outshot 14-5 in the first

period.

”I think we competed, it’s just we weren’t mentally sharp as we

needed to be, passing up some shooting opportunities,” Jets left

winger Tanner Glass said. ”They play a pretty sound defensive game

and to compete with those guys you’ve got to be sharp

mentally.”

Burmistrov tied it 1-all on Winnipeg’s eighth shot of the game

when Blake Wheeler sent a nice pass to him as he streaked through

the left circle.

Wheeler now has five goals and 13 assists in his last 17

games.

Evgeni Malkin and Kunitz assisted on Neal’s goal, extending both

Malkin’s and Neal’s points’ streaks to seven games. Malkin has six

goals and 10 assists during that span, including three goals and

six assists in his last three games. Neal has six goals and three

assists during his streak.

Staal scored his 10th of the season on the power play at 4:14 of

the third, followed 40 seconds later by Dupuis’ goal.

Notes: The Jets are 0-7-0 this season when trailing after the

first period. … The game was the second of four meetings this

season between the clubs. Winnipeg won the first game 2-1 on Oct.

17. … Pittsburgh D Deryk Engelland began serving a three-game

suspension for his Tuesday hit on Chicago’s Marcus Kruger.