Foligno, Jackets deliver blow to Pens’ playoff hopes

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Nick Foligno scored his first career hat trick as the Columbus Blue Jackets erased a 2-0 deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3.

Columbus has now won nine straight.

Pittsburgh has now lost two straight and failed to make up ground on the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have a two-point lead on the Boston Bruins for the first wild card seed in the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh is 7-8-2 since March 1.

Trailing 2-0, Foligno scored his 28th of the season to get the Jackets on the board at 16:25 of the second period.

Less than two minutes later, Matt Calvert tied the game 2-2 with his 11th of the season.

Foligno gave Columbus its first lead of the game at 6:46 of the third.

After Scott Hartnell gave Columbus a 4-2 lead at 9:29 of the third, Ben Lovejoy got Pittsburgh to within one with his second of the season.

Sidney Crosby and Brandon Sutter had the other Pens goals.

Things got heated in the third as the Pens pushed for the equalizer.

Jack Johnson delivered a blow to Patric Hornqvist in front of the Blue Jackets net and picked up two minutes for roughing on the play.

Pittsburgh, who out-shot the Jackets 11-2 in the second half of the third, was unable to score on the ensuing power play.

Foligno completed the hat trick into an empty net with less than a minute remaining.

Video: Pens edge Sharks, reclaim second in Metropolitan

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David Perron and Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2.

With the win, the Penguins reclaim the second seed in the Metropolitan Division as they hold the tiebreaker on the New York Islanders.

Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, but the Sharks, who are trying to remain in the playoff hunt battled back to tie it 2-2.

Ben Smith and Logan Couture scored second period goals to even things up.

San Jose was unable to solve Marc-Andre Fleury in the shootout.

Fleury made 30 saves to improve to 33-17-8 on the season.

Alex Stalock stopped 31 shots in the loss.

San Jose is six points back of the Calgary Flames for the third seed in the Pacific Division and seven back of the Winnipeg Jets in the wild card race.

With his assist on Kunitz’s goal, Crosby now has a league leading 79 points.

Happy returns: Datsyuk plays for Detroit

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There are two things that seem to define today: an unusual amount of afternoon games and a slew of returning stars.

Add Pavel Datsyuk to that list, as he’s back in action for the Detroit Red Wings as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Datsyuk had been sidelined since March 15 with a lower-body injury.

Things have been shaky for the Red Wings lately (especially in net), so getting a two-way star like Datsyuk to return is a big deal. He’s been his usual dominant self when healthy this season, managing 23 goals and 58 points in 57 games played.

Other star returns

Henrik Lundqvist is back for the Rangers

The Penguins regain Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist

Gearing up: Malkin, Hornqvist return for Pens

The Eastern Conference’s strongest teams just seem to be getting stronger on Saturday.

Just moments after it was revealed that Henrik Lundqvist will return for the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed that Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist are back in the lineup against the Arizona Coyotes today.

For all the worries about the Penguins’ shaky play lately, plenty have countered that Pittsburgh has been rocked by another season full of injury challenges. Getting two key forwards back – Hornqvist has shown that he can be a huge contributor, too – should provide a little more clarity regarding the Penguins’ position among the East’s power brokers.

Of course, it might take one or both of these scorers some time to get healthy and up to speed. The good news is that the Penguins have two weeks to gear up for the postseason, so the hope is that they’ll shake off any rust by then.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe provided his guess as far as how Pittsburgh’s lines might look against the Coyotes:

Pens expect Ehrhoff back tonight; Malkin, Hornqvist eyeing weekend return

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Here’s an update from the Penguins’ infirmary heading into tonight’s big tilt at home against St. Louis:

— Christian Ehrhoff is expected to draw back into the lineup for just the 17th time since the calendar turned to 2015. Ehrhoff, who missed all but one game in February with a concussion, returned to the Pittsburgh lineup for a brief four-game spell this month (Mar. 14-19), but then missed Saturday’s win over Arizona with an undisclosed ailment.

All told, Ehrhoff has only played 48 of Pittsburgh’s 72 games this season, but does have three goals and 14 points in those 48 games.

— Evgeni Malkin (who last played on Mar. 14 versus Boston) and Patric Hornqvist (last game Mar. 15 versus Detroit) took today’s morning skate, but won’t draw back in until this weekend at the earliest. The Pens host Arizona and San Jose on Saturday and Sunday.

Without Malkin and Hornqvist in the lineup, Pittsburgh has gone 1-2-0 and scored just four goals, three of which came in Saturday’s victory over the Coyotes.

— In other news, the Pens recalled Derrick Pouliot from AHL Wilkes-Barre and sent veteran forward Andrew Ebbett back down. This means Pittsburgh is currently carrying seven d-men and 11 forwards.