For whatever frustration the Pittsburgh Penguins feel for losing Tuesday at Detroit 4-1 when a win would have clinched a playoff spot, perhaps they can take some solace in the fact that as a reward they get … a rematch with the Red Wings in the second half of a home-and-home series Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.
“They’re important points, and the fact that we already played them, it’s good for both teams in terms of knowing what to expect,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “We need to go out there and find a way to get a win”
The Penguins have just two games left to secure a playoff spot, and perhaps climb as high as second place in the Metropolitan Division.
“Not only do we want to clinch; we want to get in the best position possible,” said defenseman Kris Letang, who has been out because of an injury. “Every game is important. If we can get all four points, we’ll try to get them. It’s not only about making it; it’s trying to get a good position also.”
The Red Wings, as well as the New York Rangers, who visit PPG Paints Arena on Saturday, have every reason to play loose. They are out of the playoffs and playing for pride, for some jobs and for the future.
There’s a lot more on the line for the Penguins.
We have a couple more games,” said center Evgeni Malkin, who could return from injury Thursday. “We understand they’re huge games for us, and we understand we need to win both.”
Detroit used speed and a strong game from goaltender Jimmy Howard to thwart the Penguins on Tuesday.
“I think it’s nice anytime you lose to a team to be able to get right back into action against the same team and try and redeem yourself,” Penguins winger Bryan Rust said. “Obviously, things are getting pretty interesting here (in terms of the standings), so I think we just have to worry about taking care of our own business, and after that whatever happens, happens.”
With the loss Tuesday, the Penguins not only missed a chance to clinch a playoff spot and move ahead of the New York Islanders into second place in the Metropolitan Division, but they also ensured they can’t win the division.
They couldn’t even back in, as Montreal beat the top team in the league, Tampa Bay, 4-2 that night. A Canadiens loss also would have stamped the Penguins’ visa to the postseason.
Now the soonest the Penguins can clinch is Thursday, again with a win over Detroit or a loss by Montreal, which is at Washington.
“I think our mindset is in the right place,” Crosby said. “We know the importance of it.”