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Penguins Room: ‘Exciting, Eh?’ Relentless Pens Keep Going



Pittsburgh Penguins game, Sidney Crosby in Pens locker room

Four straight wins and points in eight straight games put the Pittsburgh Penguins in a playoff spot. While it might be nearly inconceivable, the Penguins have crawled from a 1.9% playoff chance just a week ago to a playoff position and control their fate over the final week-plus of the NHL regular season.

The Penguins locker room was a mix of relieved emotion and eagerness to play the next game. The Penguins claimed a 4-1 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period but were tied 4-4 by the middle of the third.

The Penguins clawed back into the game rather than getting run out of it. Michael Bunting scored the game-winner at 14:32 for a 5-4 Penguins win, but the drama wasn’t over until the final horn.

It seemed another Colorado-type collapse was at hand. The Penguins led Colorado at the beginning of their eight-game streak but surrendered five unanswered goals, including the overtime winner.

This time, it was different. The Penguins responded after the game was tied 4-4. Evgeni Malkin’s line stormed the offensive zone. After Malkin hit the post for the second time in the period, he tapped a pass through the crease to Bunting, who scored the game-winner.

And his celebration was even louder than the fans.

“It’s exciting. The adrenaline is going. All of my emotions showed. I’m sure the whole rink heard me screaming.”

Colorado had a power play for the final 96 seconds after Marcus Pettersson cleared the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty. With the extra attacker, Tampa Bay had a 6v4 advantage, and they applied heavy pressure.

Penguins Locker Room

Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic might soon become a folk hero like former Penguins netminder Johan Hedberg. Nedeljkovic has started all eight games of the Penguins’ streak, as they’ve gone from sad sacks out of the playoff race to an odds-on favorite to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two weeks.

The (Ned) stark turnaround technically began with the OT loss to Colorado, something Nedeljkovic noted.

“We didn’t find a way to close (the Colorado game), but after that, you could say that we played some pretty good hockey since then,” said Nedeljkovic. “So as for one single moment, I couldn’t tell you, but just these last two weeks and a bit, I think we’ve been playing pretty consistent, pretty good hockey.”


Sidney Crosby

Evgeni Malkin scored two goals and registered an assist. Kris Letang and Crosby also scored goals. While some clamor for the youth in the Penguins lineup, it’s indeed the stars in their mid-30s who are carrying the team.

Crosby was flying Saturday. He scored the game’s first goal and nearly scored a couple more. The Penguins captain has led his team back from the brink of disaster to a playoff position by filling the net.

The Penguins aren’t patting themselves on the back for making it this far, and their eyes remain fixed on the playoff prize. That’s part of Crosby’s influence.

“What we have to do hasn’t changed for a while now. So our game has been pretty good, and we’ve just got to continue to grow a game at a time here, and that’s served us really well,” Crosby said. “That approach has gotten us to this point and given us success. So we’ve just got to continue to play the same way. And I think that’s a good thing for us. We don’t have to change a whole lot. We’ve just gotta keep going.”


Michael Bunting

The hero of the story. Bunting has represented a significant change in the Penguins lineup, adding some grit and fierce puck pressure. He also gets his nose dirty around the net.

Bunting scored his 18th goal of the season and sixth in 17 games with the Penguins. It was a biggie.

Evgeni Malkin channeled the frustration of missing a couple of glorious chances and pounced on a loose puck after hitting the post. Malkin slipped a pass across the crease to Bunting, who slammed the winner into the net.

Bunting’s voice rose above the sellout crowd, which also roared its approval. Penguins hockey is again exciting, if not heartstopping and dramatic.

“It’s exciting. The adrenaline is going. All of my emotions showed. I’m sure the whole rink heard me screaming.”