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Penguins Grades: Older Penguins Rally, But Bigger Issues Loom? (+)

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Carter, Tristan Jarry

BUFFALO — The Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres saved up all of the drama for the third period minutes and overtime. What was a dominant 2-1 Buffalo lead became a wild finish, including a late tying goal, a match penalty, and an overtime winner.

In the final 22 minutes, a ho-hum Hallmark Channel movie became a Tarantino flic, complete with a surprise ending.

The Penguins’ three-game winning streak hung in the balance of a disjointed effort. The young and plucky Sabres raced up and down the ice. They raced past the Penguins’ defensemen as if the defensemen were traffic cones.

The Penguins, the oldest team in the NHL, at times seemed to be hanging by a thread.

Then early in the third period, Sidney Crosby changed the game. He made a diving play on the wall to keep a puck in the offensive zone, followed by a strong backhand pass from his knees to set up a tying goal.

“That was a huge goal to tie it up early in the third. It was an unbelievable play by Sid to keep the puck in,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Just a great play all around. But that’s the type of game that we need to assert ourselves more.”

With a little irony, it was the oldest player in the NHL whose mistake in crunch time cost Buffalo. Penguins winger Brock McGinn collected a soft goal with a 35-foot slapper from the mid-wall past 41-year-old Sabres goalie Craig Anderson.

It was a softy, but it counted.

Despite being bombarded for two periods, the Penguins led with two minutes remaining.

But Evgeni Malkin took a bad penalty in the waning minutes, and the Penguins PK gave up the tying goal with 96 seconds remaining.

Through all of that, the Penguins still won.

Yet we’re left to wonder about the contents of the game and if the game will be a harbinger of larger issues that could manifest in the second half of the season.

There’s a lot to unpack in the PHN+ report card.

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