The Penguins just wanted to make the playoffs.
They wound up as Atlantic Division champs.
Following last season’s 105-point finish and playoff berth, the Penguins had just hoped to earn another spot in the postseason dance this year. They achieved that goal, but have a chance at nearly match last season’s points total. The Penguins reside atop the Eastern Conference with 102 points and close out their season Sunday in Philadelphia.
“We knew with the year we had last year, it’d be pretty hard to repeat that,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “This year, we just wanted to make sure we played good hockey and were consistent. I think we were able to do that through a lot of adversity and the division is probably stronger than it was last year. I think that’s definitely something we should be proud of.”
The Penguins clinched the Atlantic Division crown – their first division title since the 1997-98 campaign – with a 4-2 home triumph Wednesday over the Flyers
“It’s rewarding,” Crosby said. “We’ve been consistent all year and battled a lot of adversity throughout the season, so it’s a pretty nice reward.”
Crosby sparked the Penguins to their sixth-ever division title and first in the Atlantic with a pair of goals, including a highlight-reel, between-the-legs redirection of a Sergei Gonchar shot for the final goal late in the third period. It was the fourth power-play goal of the evening for the Penguins.
“It felt good to just score, in general, especially here. It’s been a while,” Crosby said. “I am glad it came on the power play; that was the difference for us. It was pretty tight five-on-five and that is what you needed out of the power play, especially down the stretch.”
The Penguins extended their home dominance, too. They earned a point in their 11th-straight home game (9-0-2) and are 19-2-3 in their last 24 contests at Mellon Arena.