Penguins slide to fourth in Metropolitan with loss to Columbus

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Pittsburgh had the best record in the Eastern Conference two months ago. After suffering a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night, the Penguins have fallen to the point where they just have a Wild Card spot.

Pittsburgh has found the back of the net just once in each of its last three contests and part of that recent drought is tied to Sidney Crosby, who has been held off the scoresheet in five of his last six games. His frustrations seemed to reach a boiling point tonight when he engaged Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky in a sparring match:

If Crosby was hoping to spark his team, it didn’t work as it was Dubinsky that was ultimately the hero tonight by netting the game-winning goal:

Pittsburgh’s scoring woes are just the latest in a long line of issues. The Penguins have a 10-11-5 record since Dec. 20, which has allowed the rest of the league to catch up with them. The latest example is the Washington Capitals, which earned a 5-1 victory over Winnipeg tonight to leapfrog the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division race.

The silver lining for the Penguins is that the damage is not yet irreversible. While they’re now in fourth place in their division, they still only trail the first place New York Islanders by six points.

Meanwhile, Columbus kept its faint playoff hopes alive with its fifth victory in seven games. The Blue Jackets are 26-27-3 this season.