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.