By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — With help from Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins are on the verge of sweeping their opening playoff series against Columbus.READ MORE: Here's A List Of Warming Centers Open Across The City Of Detroit
Crosby played keep-away with three Blue Jackets players behind the net before passing the puck to a perfectly positioned Guentzel in front during overtime on Sunday night.
The 22-year-old rookie capped his hat trick by slipping it past Sergei Bobrovsky at 13:10 of the extra period for a 5-4 win and a 3-0 advantage for Pittsburgh in the playoff series.
The Penguins will try to finish off Columbus on Tuesday night.
The loss was deflating for the Blue Jackets, who scored 11 seconds into the game and jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first period only to let the Penguins climb back in, as veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury regained the form that frustrated Columbus in the two previous games.
Fleury, forced into action for the injured Matt Murray, had 33 saves in another wild and hard-hitting matchup between the Metropolitan Division rivals.
The biggest save might have been a shot by Brandon Dubinsky that Fleury took off his mask seven minutes into the overtime.
Guentzel earned the first playoff hat trick for a Pittsburgh rookie. The accomplishment was still sinking in after the win.
“I don’t even know yet,” he said. “It’s a pretty unique night.”
Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin added goals for the Penguins. Malkin and Crosby each had two assists.
Cam Atkinson had two goals for Columbus, and Zach Werenski and Dubinsky also scored. Bobrovsky had 42 saves.READ MORE: Kellogg Workers Reject Tentative Labor Deal, Vote To Stay On Strike
Werenski, a 19-year-old rookie defenseman, also took a puck to the face on a shot by Phil Kessel that opened a gash on his right cheek in the second period. He played a couple shifts in the third period with a full facemask, but his eye swelled shut and he had to sit out the rest of the game.
He tweeted a photo of his face after the game that showed his eye nearly swollen shut . His status for Tuesday’s game is unknown.
After only scoring two goals combined in the first two games of the series, Columbus scored three goals in just over six minutes of the first period.
But the Penguins regained their composure and pushed back hard during the second period to tie the score at 3-3.
At 5:21, Rust got his second goal of the series when he tipped Brian Dumoulin’s shot through Bobrovsky’s pads. Then, with Werenski flat on the ice bleeding profusely from the wound on his face, Malkin tied the score at 13:25.
Guentzel scored Pittsburgh’s first goal in the opening period and got another in the third period before beating Bobrovsky for the winner in OT. (Fleury) makes a big save in overtime that probably changed the game.”
The Blue Jackets, who are in the playoffs for just the third time in their 17-year history, trail 3-0 in the series.
“Desperate,” Dubinsky said. “We have no other choice. We’ve got to come to work tomorrow, try to get better and make sure we come out with same excitement we have in the first three games, and just try to sustain it for 60 minutes.”
Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said the team now is “like a wounded animal.”
“We had our chances in overtime,” he said. “It’s a tough one to swallow right now.”
NOTES: Columbus was penalized twice for having too many men on the ice. … Pittsburgh C Nick Bonino took a puck in the face in the first period and immediately left the ice. He returned later in the period. … F Sonny Milano was recalled from Cleveland of the American Hockey League to replace Matt Calvert, who was suspended a game for breaking his stick on Pittsburgh’s Tom Kuhnhackl on Friday night.
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