Neal nets hat trick as Penguins pound Jets

The Pittsburgh Penguins shook off a streak- second loss and bounced right back into the win column with one of their biggest offensive outputs of the season.

James Neal got his second career hat trick and was one of three Penguins with at least four points Tuesday night in an 8-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

Evgeni Malkin added two goals -- the 200th and 201st of his career -- and Tyler Kennedy also scored twice for the Penguins, who were coming off a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday that snapped their 11-game wining streak.

Scott Hartnell scored with 0.9 seconds left in overtime in that one to end the longest win streak in the NHL this season, but the Penguins came back with a puck-swarming vengeance against the Jets.

Malkin had five points while Neal and Sidney Crosby added four apiece, with Sid the Kid setting up goals by Kennedy and Malkin among his four assists.

Pascal Dupuis also scored and Brad Thiessen improved to 3-0 in three career starts despite giving up four goals on 30 shots.

Bryan Little scored twice for the Jets and Tim Stapleton and Jim Slater also had goals. Ondrej Pavelec gave up five goals on 24 shots before being replaced by Chris Mason, who allowed three on 11.

The Penguins scored eight goals for the fourth time this season and remained No. 4 in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They pulled within one point of idle New York for first place in the Atlantic Division.

The game almost mirrored an 8-5 win over the Jets in Pittsburgh on Feb. 11, with Malkin also getting five points in that one.

In games like this, Crosby said afterward, you just have to keep putting pucks in the net to make sure. The Penguins did that, scoring five of the last six.

"We'd still like to tighten up defensively," Crosby said -- but that was for another time.

Neal posted his first hat trick since Dec. 23, 2008, in Toronto when he played for the Dallas Stars. With his five points, Malkin increased his NHL-leading total to 93 for the season.

Neal's first goal -- a one-timer from the low left side on Malkin's pass through the crease during a power play -- tied the game at 2-2 with 3:16 remaining in the opening period. He scored off a loose puck 1:15 into the second period to make it 3-2 Pittsburgh.

Little's second goal came at the end of a 2-on-1 and tied the game for Winnipeg just 2:39 later.

Kennedy followed with his second goal 3:01 after that -- the benefactor of Crosby's pass through the legs of Jets defenseman Mark Stuart -- and Malkin gave Pittsburgh the game's first two-goal lead on a slap shot 11:31 into the period.

Winnipeg countered when Stapleton scored on a stuff from the crease, but Neal made it 6-4 on a rifled one-timer from a sharp angle near the boards with 2:57 left in the second period.

Malkin's second goal was a fluke -- it went off Mason's skate early in the third period after he flipped it toward the net from the end boards -- and Dupuis scored on a one-timer for his career-best 21st goal of the season.

"I face those guys every day in practice," Thiessen, the 26-year-old Penguins goaltender, said. "So be able to see them do their thing ... it was fun to watch."

Earlier, Kennedy opened the scoring on a one-timer at 2:04 of the first period and the Jets responded with two goals to take the lead. Slater tied the game at 3:35 when a pass into the slot went off the inside of his right skate and Little's wrister on a power play made it 2-1 at the 12:51 mark.

Game Notes

The Penguins won three straight against the Jets after losing the opener in the season series. They have won 15 of the last 16 meetings between the franchises. They remain at home to play Nashville on Thursday...The Jets started a three-game road trip that also includes visits to Washington on Friday and Nashville on Saturday. They remained 10th in the conference standings.