A scoring barrage that came without Sidney Crosby finally ended Pittsburgh's skid and gave new Penguins coach Mike Sullivan his first victory entering the holiday break.
He's hoping it's the first of many.
Pittsburgh looks to win back-to-back games for the first time in five weeks by winning a fourth straight meeting with the host Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
The Penguins (16-14-3) dropped five straight and scored four times in four games under Sullivan prior to Monday's 5-2 victory over Columbus. Crosby sat for the first time this season with a lower-body injury, but Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel had two goals apiece.
Pittsburgh hasn't won consecutive games since beating Minnesota on Nov. 17 and Colorado two nights later.
“Everybody here wants to win,” Sullivan said. “Everybody cares and when you go through a slide, everybody squeezes their stick a little bit more and that's part of dealing with those pressures. To get a win, guys can feel good about themselves.”
Pittsburgh completed a blockbuster deal with Toronto during the offseason to bring in Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer. Having three of the league's most prolific offensive talents hasn't delivered the desired results for the Penguins, who rank 28th in the NHL in scoring.
Kessel hadn't scored in eight consecutive games prior to Monday. Without Crosby, who has only six goals in 32 games, Kessel played on a wing with Nick Bonino as his center.
“Doesn't make a difference who you play with, you have to do whatever you can to help the team win,” Kessel said. “It felt good. I haven't scored in awhile. It's nice to get one and it's a nice win heading into the break.”
Crosby is considered day to day and could be back against the Wild (18-9-6), who also entered the hiatus on a high note after beating Montreal 2-1 on Tuesday.
Minnesota had dropped its previous two games following a 6-0-3 stretch.
“Lately we've been scoring a lot of goals and sometimes you think it's going to be that way once you get one or two early, and you kind of slip away from what we do best,” said Jason Pominville, who scored in the first period. “When we defend hard, we're a tough team to play against, and I think we showed that.”
Charlie Coyle scored for the second straight contest after going without a goal in his previous nine for the Wild, who have won five of their last six at home.
“It's going to be nice to kind of regroup, and some guys going home, and enjoying the holidays, but right back at it on the 26th, and we have to come back with the same attitude,” Coyle said. “It's not just going to come for us.”
Darcy Kuemper made 24 saves Tuesday, but Devan Dubnyk could be back in net against the Penguins. Dubnyk has allowed nine goals in his last three starts after missing the previous four games with a groin injury.
He's 2-3-0 with a 3.16 goals-against average in his career against Pittsburgh after losing 4-3 in the last meeting. Malkin scored twice and had a season-high four points to help back Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 26 saves.
Fleury, though, has been out with a concussion since losing to Washington on Dec. 14 and could be sidelined for another week. Rookie Matt Murray has started the last two games, stopping 46 of 50 shots.
Malkin has two goals and five assists during the Penguins' three-game winning streak against the Wild.