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Penguins Grades: ‘Scratching and Clawing,’ Is there Hope Yet? (+)



Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Carter, Mikael Granlund

DENVER — The Pittsburgh Penguins did something they have done far too infrequently this season. They built on a solid game and played better in the next. They also pushed back after allowing goals. Jeff Carter scored a pair of goals, one power-play tally, and the third period clincher to push the Penguins back to a playoff spot by beating the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 at Ball Arena.

The Penguins lead the Florida Panthers by one point, and each has nine games to go.

The four-game losing streak and the offensive drought are over. Wednesday was the best version of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“I thought we pursued the puck pretty (well), a lot like we did against (Ottawa). So we executed pretty (well),” Crosby said. “We still had some opportunities to add to the lead … You’re trying to find that balance between staying aggressive, and not taking risks and making mistakes. But I thought we found that here tonight.”

The Penguins fired 21 shots in the second period alone. The Avalanche, who had won six in a row, were on the defensive as hungry Penguins legs attached to Drew O’Connor and Jason Zucker aggressively pursued the puck and took it to the low zone.

O’Connor and Zucker each had five shots through two periods.

The Penguins, who have made a habit of epic failure in the face of awaiting success, played to their better angels against a good opponent.

Jeff Carter tipped a Brian Dumoulin pass into the net for the backbreaker, and you could almost hear the “take that.”

Is there hope for this team yet?

There are some reasons to think things are coming together. There are reasons to wonder if this team can sustain itself. Coach Mike Sullivan didn’t sidestep that question.

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