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Penguins Complete Another Successful Regular Season

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
LONG ISLAND – The Penguins capped another banner regular season with their 6-5 overtime victory over the Islanders on Sunday. Thanks to a five-point night by Sidney Crosby (2G-3A) and a two-goal performance from Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh was able to finish the season with a 47-28-7 record, good for 101 points, the third time in the past four seasons, and the sixth overall, Pittsburgh has surpassed the century mark.

Additionally, the Penguins’ 47 victories are the third-best win total in franchise history (56 in ’92-93; 49 in ’95-96).

Pittsburgh finished the season in second place in the Atlantic Division, just two points behind the New Jersey Devils.

“I think we have put ourselves in a decent position heading into the playoffs,” Jay McKee said. “The guys are geared up and excited about the playoffs. We train all summer and play 82 games for this time of the year.”

The Penguins, who haven’t lost back-to-back regulation contests in 39 games, have the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, where they will face off with the fifth-seeded Ottawa Senators for the third time in the past four seasons.

“I like our guys in terms of being playoff-tested and playoff-proven,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We know how we are going to need to play. We are going to get tested by the Senators. We need to get to our game against a good team playing their way as well.”

Pittsburgh also entered the postseason as the No. 4 seed last season, when they went on to capture the team’s third Stanley Cup championship. The Penguins appear even more equipped to make a long run than they did last season – their 101 points are two more than they earned in ’08-09 and their 47 victories are two higher than last season’s total of 45.

Pittsburgh and Ottawa will open the postseason Wednesday night at Mellon Arena, where the Penguins have posted an 18-4 record over the past two postseasons. Additionally, the Penguins are 5-0 during their last two playoff runs when they have home-ice advantage, going up 2-0 in all five series.

“When you have the advantage at home, the better your chances to win are going to be,” McKee said. “We look forward to playing at home and kicking things off in front of our fans.”

Tangradi Debuts

With the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs just days away, the present certainly takes precedent over the future – especially with the Penguins one of the legitimate favorites to capture back-to-back championships.

But it’s never too soon to take a glance into the future, which the Penguins did on Sunday when top power forward prospect Eric Tangradi made his National Hockey League debut against the New York Islanders in the season finale at Nassau Coliseum.

Tangradi was recalled on an emergency basis from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after it was determined left winger Matt Cooke would sit out against Islanders as a precautionary measure after he left during the second period on Saturday night.

Tangradi, who had 17 goals and 39 points in 65 games this season with the Baby Penguins, was held scoreless and finished with three shots and three hits while seeing 13:49 minutes of ice time in his debut.

Tangradi nearly picked up his first career NHL goal at 11:59 of the third period when he picked off an errant clearing attempt by the Islanders, but Dwayne Roloson recovered in time to close the pads on Tangradi’s wrist shot.

“It was awesome,” said Tangradi of his debut. “The first period was definitely an adjustment period. I was having a little trouble early on chipping pucks. In the second and third I really thought I settled down and had a couple of really good scoring chances. I am pretty satisfied with how I played tonight.”

So too, was head coach Dan Bylsma.

“I thought he played outstanding,” Bylsma said. “The toughest challenge is to play your game and make an impression in your first NHL game. He was very good along the boards. He straight-lined it to the net. He created the turnover and had a great scoring chance with the goalie fighting to get back into the net.

“Probably the toughest thing to do is to earn the confidence of your coach and he was able to do that by the end. With a minute and a half left in regulation I was putting him on the ice with (Jordan) Staal and (Tyler) Kennedy.”

The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Tangradi learned late Saturday night that he was getting the recall. He got up early Sunday morning and made the three-and-a-half hour drive to New York.

“Last night after our bus ride home from Binghamton I came into the room and they told me I would be coming today,” Tangradi said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night and I didn’t really sleep today, either.”

Tangradi, who hails from Philadelphia, had 15 family and friends in attendance on Long Island, including his parents.

“It was nice to enjoy the moment with my family,” Tangradi said.

Injury Update

Pittsburgh took on the Islanders Sunday without the services of forward Matt Cooke and defenseman Brooks Orpik. Cooke left Saturday night’s contest in Atlanta early in the second period following a fight with the Thrashers Evander Kane. Orpik sat out most of the third period against Atlanta after sustaining a gash in his thigh.

Additionally, the Penguins were once again without Chris Kunitz, who missed his fourth-consecutive game due to an undisclosed injury.

Head coach Dan Bylsma hopes to have all three players back in the lineup when the Penguins begin their Stanley Cup title defense later this week.

“Brooks I fully expect to play,” Bylsma said. “I think they will all play Wednesday. They are day-to-day.

“Matt is doing well and fine. He suffers from no symptoms right now. He still has to go through some tests once we get back to Pittsburgh to be sure but he is fine.”

Godard Notches First Goal

Penguins enforcer Eric Godard picked up his first goal of the season when he slammed home the rebound of a Sidney Crosby turnaround shot 6:35 into the first period.

“I was just trying to make the Rocket (Richard Trophy) race a little more interesting,” Godard joked. “I believe it was a toe-drag top shelf if I remember it right.”

Godard’s goal ended a 52-game scoring drought since he last scored on March 14 of last season in a game against the Ottawa Senators.

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