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Pens Turn Focus to Finishing First in the East

by Caleigh Burchfield / Pittsburgh Penguins

When the Penguins made the playoffs back in 2007, Tristan Jarry was 11 years old and watching on TV. 

On Thursday night, he was between the pipes for Pittsburgh, making 33 saves in their 5-4 overtime victory over Washington to help the Penguins clinch their franchise-record 15th-consecutive playoff berth.

"This is our 15th year in a row making the playoffs, and I think that's a huge accomplishment for Pittsburgh," said Jarry, who celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday. "I think it says a lot about the city and the teams that have been put together here. I think it's great. And obviously it's exciting for us to be in that playoffs again and get a spot."

But while it certainly feels good, the Penguins are by no means satisfied, as they still have a lot of work ahead of them. With five games remaining in the regular season, the Penguins are now focused on finishing first in their division. They are currently second in the East with a 33-15-3 record.

"It's kind of just a quick 'great, we're in' type of thing,'" defenseman Mike Matheson said. "We obviously have our next goal of fighting for position within our division and earning home-ice advantage for our first series. Now we're on to tomorrow's game and moving on through the next five games of the season."

Next up for Matheson and the Penguins is a rematch with Washington on Saturday. It has huge playoff implications, as the Capitals currently sit atop the East with 69 points - the same as Pittsburgh - but with a game at hand.

Pittsburgh is 5-2-0 against Washington this year, with four of the seven games going past regulation, with the Penguins emerging victorious in all of those contests.

"I just think it boils down to commitment and details and making sure you control what you can out there," head coach Mike Sullivan said of his team's overtime success. "We're defending hard when we have to, we're getting timely saves when we need them, and our guys are finishing when they get the opportunities offensively. We have strategies on both sides of the puck that we're trying to utilize to have success in the overtime. I think the players have done a real good job just staying committed to it and just paying attention to the details."

And looking past tomorrow's game against Washington, Pittsburgh has two games in Philadelphia (22-21-7) before finishing the 56-game regular season with two home games against the Buffalo Sabres (13-31-7). It's going to be a busy, exciting week as the Penguins head down the final stretch.

"For me, this is when the fun really starts," Sullivan said. "We have a lot of work in front of us. Our players are well aware of that. Our expectations are high. And so we're looking forward to some of the next goals that that we have in mind. We still have a lot to play for here during this regular season. And we're going to try to put our best game forward to put this team in the best possible position to have success when the playoffs hit."


The Penguins held an optional practice this afternoon at Capital One Arena. Evgeni Malkin (lower-body, 22 games missed) and Brandon Tanev (upper-body, 12 games missed) both took part in the session. Sullivan said they're making progress, but their status has not changed.

"When that happens, we'll let you know," he said.

Sullivan also said that Evan Rodrigues, who left in the first period of Thursday's game after taking a shot off the foot, is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

"We'll update you each day with respect to Evan," Sullivan said.

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