NHL realignment came with the promise of new rivalries.
Pittsburgh's lopsided win over the Blue Jackets won't do what a touchdown and a gong show did for the budding Flyers-Capitals rivalry on Friday. The Pens will take the points in any fashion, though, as they skated to a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in their first meeting of the season and first as division rivals.
The Metropolitan Division isn't off to a great start in its maiden season. With the win, Pittsburgh strengthened its own record to 10-4-0, far and away the best mark in the division (and the only winning record in the group). Columbus dropped to 5-7-0 with the loss.
Notable performances came from Brandon Sutter, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. Sutter potted his second goal in as many games to open the scoring on the night. Malkin was rewarded for his recent run of dominant if not productive play, recording two assists and nearly scoring on the power play in the second period.
Malkin's shot rang off two posts and was ruled a goal on the ice before being waved off upon review.
Fleury recorded his NHL-leading 10th win of the season, stopping 37 of 39 shots. Friday's win also marked the ninth game in 12 starts in which Fleury allowed two or fewer goals.
The Blue Jackets outshot the Penguins 39-27 on the night. Pittsburgh went 2-for-4 on the power play on the night and held Columbus scoreless on four power play chances of their own, giving their penalty killing unit an 18-for-19 mark in home games on the season.
The performance could be a boost for a PK unit that is nearly perfect at home but still came into the evening sporting one of the worst PK percentages in the NHL.
The clubs will meet Saturday in Columbus to play the second half of their home-and-home weekend series. Backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff figures to get the start, and would be in search of his first NHL win in his third career start.
Zatkoff last played in Pittsburgh's 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders last Friday.
A home-and-home sweep would give the Penguins the top record in the Eastern Conference and as much as a ten-point lead in the Metropolitan Division.