After falling to the Bruins on Saturday, their first regulation loss since March 22 after going on a 7-0-3 point streak, the Penguins needed a win on Monday against Nashville to keep their playoff hopes alive – and defeated the Central Division Champions 4-2 at PPG Paints Arena.

They took care of their business, but still need help to make the playoffs. The Islanders clinched a spot with their victory over New Jersey, and the teams Pittsburgh is chasing for that second Wild Card spot, Washington and Detroit, also won. The standings now look like this after the night’s slate of games:

Washington (89 points, 1 game left)

Detroit (89 points, 1 game left)

Pittsburgh (88 points, 1 game left)

The Capitals (vs. Philadelphia) and Red Wings (vs. Montreal) both play on Tuesday. If either team wins in any fashion, Pittsburgh is out of contention. Their path remains open if:

The Penguins beat the Islanders

The Flyers beat Washington (any fashion)

The Canadiens beat Detroit (any fashion)


The Penguins lose in overtime/shootout to the Islanders

The Flyers beat Washington (regulation)

The Canadiens beat Detroit (regulation)

While the Penguins do not control their own destiny, the team still believes.

“Obviously, we need some help, but given the position we were in a few weeks ago I think we would have taken this opportunity,” Sidney Crosby said. “So hopefully, we get some help. All we can do is control being ready to play and finding a way to win that one."

Let’s get into tonight’s win

The captain, Erik Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Emil Bemstrom all scored in tonight’s 4-2 victory, while Alex Nedeljkovic responded well after being pulled in the team’s last game against the Bruins. The 28-year-old netminder stopped 28 of 30 shots in his 12th straight start.

“I felt good,” Nedeljkovic said. “The other day, I felt good in that first period against Boston. Sometimes, these guys, they grip their sticks a little hard, maybe when they’re not scoring or things aren’t going their way. … I felt I was maybe I was starting to do the same. Maybe playing a little tight and not playing loose and being myself. I felt like I got back to doing my thing tonight.”

As Nedeljkovic put it, the Penguins came out with some fire, and put together probably their best first period of the year.

“We had a good start,” Crosby said. “I thought right from the drop of the puck we had a lot of jump, a lot of urgency. To get a lead I think was big.”

After a Michael Bunting highlight-reel power-play goal was called back due to goaltender interference, Crosby quickly netted his 42nd of the season to open the scoring.

Karlsson then buried one from the point to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Following that, a Kris Letang point shot on the power play found the back of the net, but was also taken off the board for goaltender interference.

“It sucks ending up on the wrong side of things. It’s 50-50 a lot of times. I think if that first goal is allowed, I think the second one is as well,” Karlsson said. “They were very similar. I don’t think it discouraged us too much. I felt like we felt good about ourselves. We took care of the things we could control. That’s not one of them, unfortunately.”

The power play, which ranks 31st in the NHL, is one area the Penguins struggled to get going during this hot stretch, so it felt good for them to gain some momentum tonight. They officially went 1-for-4, along with the two goals that got called back, and created plenty of chances.

“It was obviously nice to get a goal,” Karlsson said. “I think we felt fairly good with every opportunity we got even though we didn’t generate as much as we always want to. It still felt like, we were feeling good about ourselves which translated to our five-on-five play. It was nice to see.”

The horn sounded to end the period with the Penguins outshooting the Predators 20-5.

"I thought we had a great start,” Letang said. “We had a really good first period. I thought we played with a lot of energy moving on, dictating the pace. We didn't give them too much and the special units made a big difference."

The second frame did not start as well for Pittsburgh. Gustav Nyquist scored for the Predators and cut the Penguins’ lead to 2-1. It didn’t take long for Pittsburgh to respond. After a 14-game goalless drought, Smith upped the lead back to two off an incredible pass from Lars Eller.

“It’s nice to help out the team and get a goal,” Smith said. “Obviously it’s an important time of the year, and whenever you can chip in, it goes a long way.”

A Filip Forsberg goal at the end of the second made it 3-2 Penguins going into the final frame. Pittsburgh needed to close this game out to stay in the fight. The team came out flying to start the third, and got rewarded as Emil Bemstrom rifled a one-timer into the net off a great feed from Karlsson.

From there, the Penguins were just committed to playing the right way on both sides of the puck, and that secured the victory, keeping their season alive for the time being.

“This team is amazing,” Evgeni Malkin said. “If we could play like this whole year, probably we clinch playoffs. But tomorrow a big day for us, and we hope. We have great potential here and we know that, but we start a little bit late, probably. But fun to play with these guys the last three weeks, after trade deadline. We trade Guentz, probably everybody say we have zero chance, and we have like, a one percent chance three weeks ago. But we are still fighting, and everybody is playing amazing.”

The Penguins will close out their regular-season slate with Game 82 against the Islanders on Wednesday at UBS Arena.

“I think we are excited going to Long Island and playing our last game of the season on Wednesday. That’s all we are going to worry about,” Karlsson said. “Whatever happens around us, there is not much we can do about it. We put ourselves in a great position here and something we could only dream about a few months ago.”