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Penguins-Blue Jackets Preview

Columbus Blue Jackets' Nikita Nikitin, left to right, of Russia, Boone Jenner, Ryan Johansen and Dalton Prout celebrate their goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period of a first-round NHL playoff hockey game Monday, April 21, 2014, in Photo:

Columbus Blue Jackets' Nikita Nikitin, left to right, of Russia, Boone Jenner, Ryan Johansen and Dalton Prout celebrate their goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period of a first-round NHL playoff hockey game Monday, April 21, 2014, in

An angry Sidney Crosby refuted the idea that there is a rift between him and Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux.

An angry John Tortorella called the Columbus Blue Jackets' latest victory lucky.

The Blue Jackets managed to shut down Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the last time these teams met and have taken four of the last five matchups heading into this one Friday night at Nationwide Arena.

Crosby has been enduring a difficult season, though he scored twice in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win over St. Louis to increase his goal total to five. The captain also fired back at a report that he was feuding with the legendary Lemieux.

''I honestly don't even know what to say to that,'' he said. ''If people are going to make stuff up, it's totally out of my control. I feel stupid even commenting on it. That's ridiculous.''

Crosby scored twice in a regular-season game for the first time since Feb. 12 after not doing so for 46 games.

He appears to be breaking out of an early season slump. The two-time NHL MVP went pointless in eight of his first nine games but now has a three-game streak and 10 points in his last 12.

''I don't know if it's a coincidence that something like that comes up when you're struggling and the points aren't coming,'' Crosby said. ''In my experience, that's usually the case.''

Columbus (9-14-0) won 2-1 at New Jersey on Wednesday, but Tortorella wasn't pleased as his team was outshot 28-25 by the team with the NHL's lowest average shots.

"I'm not going to talk about individuals, it was a team effort of sloppiness," Tortorella said. "We're lucky we won."

The coach was happier when the Blue Jackets won at Pittsburgh (13-8-0) by the same score Nov. 13, saying that "I thought we had good sticks, I thought we won a lot of battles, checked well."

Brandon Saad and Scott Hartnell had second-period goals, and neither Crosby nor Malkin registered a point that night.

Malkin had totaled 14 points with at least one in his first 10 regular-season games against Columbus. Crosby entered that contest with 20 points in 14 regular-season contests versus the Blue Jackets.

That duo could be more lethal this time. Malkin scored the winning goal Wednesday after he assisted on Crosby's second goal, giving the Russian seven points in his last four games.

"Obviously they're special players," right wing Phil Kessel said. "If you watch them out there, they do special things and tonight they both had good games so it helps us win."

Pittsburgh will get its first look at Brandon Dubinsky since he memorably fought Crosby in a game last season. Dubinsky was scratched from the first meeting due to an upper-body injury.

"We have to find a way to string some together," Dubinsky said. "It's not going to be an easy task, but I think this group can do it.''

Columbus averages 13:21 of penalty minutes for the league's second-highest mark, is last in the league in winning face-offs at 46.9 percent and is fourth-worst with 4.7 takeaways per game.

"A number of things is maddening about our club right now," Tortorella said.

The Blue Jackets, 0 for 13 on the power play in its last five games, are the only team that hasn't played an overtime game.

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