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Penguins Room: Malkin Speaks Blunt Truth, Crosby Hope

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin

The Pittsburgh Penguins are sailing in their game. However, they are doing so under the guillotine of long playoff odds and another early summer. Keeping hope alive, the Penguins played Game 81 as they should have played many of the games before it, submitting one of their best games of the season, beating the Nashville Predators 4-2 at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins got offense from the top of their lineup when Sidney Crosby and Erik Karlsson scored. They received depth scoring from Reilly Smith and Emil Bemstrom and closed out Nashville with a strong defensive effort in the third period.

Read more: Penguins Grades. Many Good Things, Too Late?

The Penguins locker room spoke optimistically about making the playoffs. They will need the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings to lose on Tuesday, and they need to beat the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

The words of optimism on Monday may become the words of regret on Wednesday.

Penguins Locker Room

Evgeni Malkin

Malkin has been one of the reasons the Penguins’ season went from dark days to sunny optimism, and his words could not have hit harder or been more accurate. Monday, his words were tinged with looking forward, but if they miss the playoffs, his words will be the anthem of regret.

Malkin has 17 points (8-9-17) in 20 games since the NHL trade deadline.

“If we had played this way all year, we would have probably clinched the playoffs,” Malkin said. Tomorrow is a big day for us, and we hope. We have great potential here, and we know that. We started a little late, probably.”

 

Sidney Crosby

Help.

Crosby continued to lead by example. He dove to score a first-period goal, dove after loose pucks to keep the play alive in the offensive zone, and hustled past everyone else to draw an important penalty in the third period.

Now the Penguins need help.

“I think it’s been like this for a while, where we’ve had to go into every game, grab points, and move on,” Crosby said. “So, we need some help, but given the position we were in a few weeks ago, I think we would have taken this opportunity. So, hopefully, we get some help.”

If there’s one player who deserves the help, it’s Crosby.

 

Alex Nedeljkovic

The Penguins de facto No. 1 goalie down the stretch got his 12th straight start, and he delivered. Coach Mike Sullivan said he made timely saves, especially later in the game.

The goalie looked better and more well-rested, both on the ice and in the locker room. He stopped 28 of 30 shots Monday. Getting 12 straight starts is not a small issue, and the confidence the coaches showed in him was not lost on him.

“It’s a good feeling knowing the coaching staff has confidence in you to come back and keep riding through this thing,” Nedeljkovic said. “I’m glad I was able to have a good night for them and prove them right.”