VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)Jake Guentzel scored three goals in the second period and added an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Saturday night.
Guentzel scored two power-play goals after the Canucks had three players sent to the penalty box in quick succession.
”Just the bounces are going my way right now,” Guentzel said. ”I think you go through stretches where you don’t get these bounces and for me, I’m just trying to shoot the puck as much as I can and if it goes in or if it creates rebounds, I’m just trying to just try to be around the net and shoot as much as I can and you never know what happens.”
Sidney Crosby had a goal and a pair of assists, and Kris Letang added three assists for the Penguins. Tristan Jarry, from Surrey, British Columbia, had 22 saves in his first start in Vancouver.
Rookie Vasily Podkolzin scored for the Canucks. Thatcher Demko stopped 40 of 44 shots.
”It’s no secret he’s been our most consistent and one of our best players all year round,” forward Tyler Motte said of his goalie. ”He’s kept us in a lot of games and given us opportunities to push back. And unfortunately, it’s sad the number of times we’ve left him out to dry.”
Pittsburgh beat the Canucks for the second time in 11 days. The Penguins took a 4-1 decision in Pittsburgh on Nov. 24.
The Canucks had a chance to cut into the deficit with less than three minutes left when John Marino was called for interference.
Vancouver pulled Demko in favor of an extra attacker, but the Canucks struggled to maintain possession.
Chants of ”fire Benning!” also echoed through the stadium late in the game, referring to Canucks general manager Jim Benning.
”We heard the frustration from the fans tonight,” Motte said. ”We need to look ourselves in the mirror, find a way because we do owe it to more people than just ourselves to put a better product together.”
The Canucks are 8-15-2 overall, including a 3-7-1 record at Rogers Arena.
Captain Bo Horvat understands the crowd’s growing angst.
”Fans want wins and we’re not giving them to them,” he said.
Crosby gave the Pens a three-goal lead 11:15 into the third, tapping in a long shot from Letang. It was the third goal of the season for Pittsburgh’s captain, who missed 13 games with injury and illness.
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins’ offense stepped up in the second. Pittsburgh outshot the Canucks 22-5 in the period, with Guentzel netting a hat trick.
Guentzel put Pittsburgh up just 2:19 into the period with a blast from inside the faceoff circle. Demko initially appeared to make the stop, but the puck hit Oliver Ekman-Larsson in front of the net and bounced in past the goalie.
The goal extended Guentzel’s point streak to 12 games. He has 16 points (10 goals, six assists) during the stretch.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said it’s Guentzel’s hockey IQ that gives him an edge.
”He has a unique ability to find the soft spots and when he plays with a guy like (Crosby), he usually gets the puck, but he gets there at the right time and I think that’s the genius of Jake’s game and I also think that’s why Jake and (Crosby) have been so complimentary in all the time they’ve been playing together,” he said.
The Canucks replied at 6:18 when Podkolzin, stationed in the middle of the slot, sent a deflection in off Jarry’s shoulder for his fifth goal of the year.
Midway through the period, defenseman Tyler Myers was sent to the penalty box for closing his hand on the puck.
Thirty seconds into the infraction, Tyler Motte was clocked for cross checking Kris Letang and joined Myers in the box. Defenseman Tucker Poolman was sent off the ice 20 seconds later when he sent the puck over the glass for the Canucks’ third straight penalty.
Guentzel was quick to capitalize on the open ice, blasting a shot over Demko’s shoulder 17:13 into the second period.
He added another score – his 13th goal of the season – 70 seconds later with a shot from high in the slot that hit defenseman Luke Schenn and ricocheted past Demko to give Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.
It was the fourth regular-season hat trick of Guentzel’s career. He’s also scored two in the playoffs.
Pittsburgh was 2 for 6 with the man advantage. Vancouver went scoreless on three power plays.
”When you lose, it’s hard. I get it,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green. ”Fans, people get frustrated, we get frustrated too. Our players, they’re mad when they lose, coaches are upset when they lose as well.”
NOTES: The Canucks came into the game with the worst penalty kill in the league (64.5%). . Guentzel has scored in each of Pittsburgh’s 13 road games. . Vancouver is 3-7-1 at home this season.
Penguins: At Seattle on Monday night in the fourth of a five-game trip.
Canucks: Host Los Angeles on Monday night to continue a six-game homestand.
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