Nick Bonino with a hat trick, Penguins down Jets 7-4 for third straight win

By The Canadian Press
March 8, 2017 - 8:15pm

WINNIPEG — Teammates Nick Bonino and Evgeni Malkin had different kinds of hat tricks on Wednesday.

Bonino led the way with three goals as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Winnipeg Jets 7-4 for their third win in a row.

It was his second career three-goal game, scoring the Penguins' first, fourth and sixth goal to give him 12 on the season.

"The first one went in and you're always feeling a little bit better, and then it just seemed like the puck was finding the net for (us) tonight," said Bonino, whose first hat trick was in February 2013 when he played for the Anaheim Ducks.

"I can't really explain it, but guys made great passes and guys forechecked hard and the puck just found my stick and found the net."

Malkin scored his 30th and 31st goals and qualified for a "Gordie Howe hat trick" — a goal, an assist and a fight.

Just over three minutes into the first period, Jets captain Blake Wheeler and Malkin dropped the gloves. In the team's last meeting Feb. 16 in Pittsburgh, Malkin hit Wheeler in the head and only drew a minor interference penalty.

Wheeler wanted retribution and ended up punching Malkin to the ice to loud cheers from fans at MTS Centre.

"I respect his leadership," Malkin said of Wheeler. "This guy, he's a great player. I'm ready, you know? But it's not my greatest fight. I respect this guy. It's fine, just a couple punches and I lost. One fight is enough for me."

Wheeler was glad they tangled.

"A lot of respect for him answering the bell," Wheeler said. "He didn't have to do that so it was good to get that out of the way right away and focus on the rest of the game."

Justin Schultz and Jake Guentzel also scored for the Penguins (41-16-8) and Matt Murray made 31 saves to set a new team record for wins by a rookie with 25, passing Gary Inness' mark set in 1974-75. 

Mark Streit and Conor Sheary each had a pair of helpers and Chad Ruhwedel recorded three assists.

Connor Hellebuyck, making his 12th straight start, was pulled midway through the second period after allowing five goals on 15 shots for the Jets. He was replaced by Michael Hutchinson, who made 14 stops in relief.

Shawn Matthais, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dustin Byfuglien and Marko Dano scored for Winnipeg (30-32-6).

Winnipeg led 3-2 after the first period, but Pittsburgh scored a trio of goals during a 57-second span in the second period.

Schultz and Bonino each scored on the power play at 9:09 and 9:29, respectively, and Malkin made it 5-3 at 10:06.

"We had our chances on the power play and it wasn't good enough," said Jets centre Bryan Little, whose team was 0 for 5.

"That 5-on-3 for them was kind of a momentum-changer. When they got those two goals to go up, they got some life and kind of sucked the life out of us."

The Penguins were 3 for 5 with the man advantage and led 6-3 after the middle period.

The Jets lost veteran defenceman Tobias Enstrom in the first period after he was checked hard into the boards by Penguins winger Tom Sestito, who was called up from the minors earlier in the day. He got a game misconduct.

"Toby is in the hospital now, he's getting checked for facial fractures," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. "We will have a better idea tomorrow."

Sestito had just 1:02 of ice time, but was able to rack up 20 minutes in penalties before his ejection.

Maurice was asked if he thought Sestito was called up to do something like that.

"Well, he wasn't called up to dangle," Maurice responded.

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan said he would have liked to seen Sestito play more.

"He brings a physical element to our team," Sullivan said. "He has the ability to create some anxiety. I think he has the ability to give our players a certain comfort level when they're on the ice."

Sullivan said forward Patric Hornqvist, a late scratch, was diagnosed with a concussion earlier in the day and flew back to Pittsburgh. He didn't know when the injury happened.

In keeping with the game's chippy theme, Winnipeg forward Adam Lowry was tossed at 14:16 of the third after getting a 10-minute misconduct following his late hit on Malkin.

Winnipeg wraps up its six-game homestand Saturday against Calgary. Pittsburgh travels to Edmonton for a Friday game.

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

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