It’s official: the Penguins and Flyers will battle in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Pens wrapped up the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and thus home-ice advantage in the opening round, with a 5-2 win against the conference’s top-seeded New York Rangers at CONSOL Energy Center Thursday night. Chris Kunitz
(25), Tyler Kennedy
(11), Richard Park
(7), Evgeni Malkin
(49) and Kris Letang
(10) tallied for the Pens while Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle scorered for New York.
The Pens now have a 50-25-6 record for 106 points. That’s the second-highest win and point total (tied) in team history (56, 119).
FRANCHISE GOALTENDERMarc-Andre Fleury
is well on his way to owning every major goaltending record in franchise history. He hit a major milestone Thursday night by recording his 226th win in a Penguins’ sweater, tying Tom Barrasso for the most in team history.
“It means I’m getting old a little bit I guess. I’ve been around for a little bit,” Fleury joked. “It’s a great honor for me to catch up with a guy like (Barrasso). He’s a guy I always looked up to when I was younger and it’s nice honor to reach him.”
Fleury, who has now extended his career single-season best win total to 42 games, made 35 saves between the pipes. And even though the Pens have their playoff positioning all wrapped up, Fleury said he wouldn’t mind starting the final regular-season game Saturday against Philadelphia.
“I always like to play,” Fleury said. “There are a lot of days before the start of the playoffs. It’d be nice to get in there and play a game. It’s up to the coaches and what they want to do.”
CLOSING ON 50Evgeni Malkin
added to his career-high goal total by scoring his 49th of the season.
Forward Chris Kunitz
had the puck behind the net and found Malkin on the doorstep. Malkin smashed home the goal and inched one tally shy of hitting the big 50.
“I have a great chance to score 50,” Malkin said. “I’ve never scored 50 before. Of course it’s exciting. I have a great chance in one more game to score one more goal.”
After he scored his goal, a loud roaring chant of “MVP! MVP!” filled the air at CONSOL Energy Center. And while Malkin is a legitimate candidate for NHL MVP, he was named the Pens’ Team MVP in the annual awards ceremony that day.
“I think it’s very important for me because most people don’t believe I can play at my level,” he said. “I had a great summer and stayed positive. I don’t think about points. I came back this year and just start playing 100 percent every game. The points continued and kept coming and it’s just a great year.”
Forward Pascal Dupuis
’ remarkable scoring streak continues.
Dupuis picked up an assist on Richard Park
’s second-period goal to push his streak to 16 games. His 16-game point streak is the longest in the NHL this season, and only teammate Sidney Crosby
(25 games) has a longer streak over the last two seasons.
Despite the individual success, Dupuis was happier to talk about the No. 50 than the No. 16.
“The No. 50 is the big number today,” Dupuis said. “Fifty wins was the goal we set at the start of the season. We should all be proud of 50 wins.
“I don’t really talk about myself much. It’s a team effort. Sixteen is great, but the big picture is 50 wins, home-ice. That’s the main thing here.”
However, head coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t shy about discussing Dupuis’ success during his streak.
“To say Pascal Dupuis
has the longest point streak in the National Hockey League, I don’t have an answer for you there,” Bylsma said. “I don’t think when you look around the league you’re going to expect to see Pascal Dupuis
’ name there, but he’s done it playing throughout our lineup with different players and different people. The consistency with which he’s played has been rewarded with game points.”
The Pens had to battle the Rangers with three regulars out of the lineup. Defenseman Matt Niskanen
(upper-body) and forwards James Neal
(lower-body) and Steve Sullivan
(lower-body) all missed the contest. However, coach Bylsma said he expects all three players to be ready for the start of the postseason though they are questionable for Saturday's finale.
Author: Sam Kasan