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Penguins Grades: Sullivan Can’t Watch, Pens Toughen Up in Win over CGY (+)

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Carter, Evgeni Malkin

The Pittsburgh Penguins had on their holiday plate a chance to win their fourth game in a row and the man of the hour, Evgeni Malkin, played the fitting hero on the night the organization honored him for playing his 1000th game (Sunday in Chicago). After a tight-checking final third period and overtime that did not produce a winner, Malkin buried his seventh-round shootout, and the memory will have a perfect ending.

The Penguins beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 in a shootout at PPG Paints Arena.

For the newbies, get Dave Molinari’s Penguins recap here

After a rotten seven-game winless streak that stretched from late October into November, the points vaulted the Penguins into a points tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second wild card. And more importantly, far away from the Eastern Conference cellar dwellers.

The Penguins’ recent winless streak began in Alberta in late October. After blowing a lead to the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton on the previous night, the Penguins were pasted the following night by the Calgary Flames in Calgary, 4-1. It was the second of the seven winless games and set the Penguins on a downward path.

Wednesday, Malkin kept the win streak going.

“You have a feeling. You know it’s kind of in the script. That it was meant to be,” Danton Heinen said of Malkin’s winner.

Also, in an interesting twist, coach Mike Sullivan admitted he doesn’t watch the shootouts. He listens for the crowd reaction and watches the video later.

“So I don’t usually watch the guys when they when they’re going down (the ice). I watch it when I go back to my office, after the fact, on video,” said Sullivan. “I just listen to the crowd. I’ve always been like that since I’ve been the coach of the Penguins, so I didn’t really get a chance to see (Malkin) live.”

For new PHN readers and subscribers, the Grades and Chalkboard are the snap analysis, usually within 75 minutes after the game. Always check PHN for locker room reactions and stories, too. We cover all 82 games+, at home and on the road.

The Pittsburgh Penguins Chalkboard has a lot of good and some bad, but (spoiler) the report card is full of good grades, including an embattled defenseman.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.