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Penguins Analysis: DeSmith Saved Playoff Spot, Inside the Choppy Win (+)



Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins had to win Sunday. It was their game in hand on the Florida Panthers, and to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers would have put control of the second Eastern Conference wild card squarely in the Panthers’ palm with five games remaining.

The Penguins were not great. They were not swarming or playing a clean, mistake-free game. Evgeni Malkin notched a natural penalty trick with three straight minor penalties in the second period.

He also assisted on both of Rickard Rakell’s goals, and the Penguins beat the always-hated Flyers 4-2, but not without nearly gagging away another substantial third period lead.

The win for defenseman Kris Letang’s celebrated 1000th game put the Penguins one point ahead of the Panthers.

The win was a glass half-full with Bryan Rust and other wingers putting forth elevated games.

“It seems like every night, there are crazy things happening. One team’s gaining ground, one team’s losing ground,” said Bryan Rust. “It’s just one of those things that it’s a race to the finish line, and whoever ends up is going to get in the playoffs.”

The win was a glass half-empty because — to be kind — there were plenty of areas for improvement. The energy level and intensity were often dull.

And the skaters owe goalie Casey DeSmith a steak dinner. We’ll break it down in the report card:

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