The Rink Report: Penguins get hot, take points in their last four games

Written By Anthony Cugini, Sports Columnist

Despite an overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Pittsburgh Penguins have won three of their last four games.

Pittsburgh began their hot streak with a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers. Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry led the way with a 27-save shutout, while Evgeni Malkin scored the only goal of the game.

After beating the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh traveled to Tampa Bay to take on one of the best teams in the league: the Lightning. The Penguins played one of their most complete games as they beat the Lightning 5-1.

Pittsburgh only allowed 21 shots from Tampa, which is the fewest they’ve had in a game since January 13. The Penguins scoring was well spread out in the win as goals came from Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Danton Heinen, Evgeni Malkin and Brock McGinn. Malkin also finished the game with a team high three points.

The Penguins’ schedule didn’t get any easier as they had to play the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes the next day. Both teams played well in what was a pretty even game. Neither team was able to break down the other enough to win the game in regulation, which led to overtime.

There was plenty of controversy in the overtime period as the officials influenced the outcome more than they should have. Early in overtime, Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin was tripped by a sliding Lightning player. The referees opted to let them play by dismissing the thought of a penalty.

A minute later, Kris Letang and Carolina forward Vincent Trocheck were battling in the corner for a loose puck. Things got physical and as Letang was skating away, Trocheck punched Letang in the side of the head. Letang retaliated by whacking Trocheck with his stick. The referee saw Letang hit Trocheck, which led to Letang being put in the penalty box, while Trocheck got off without punishment. The Hurricanes scored on the resulting power play, ending the game.

Looking at the situation as a whole, penalties should’ve been called on both players rather than just Letang. Referees demonstrated a “let them play” attitude by allowing the trip on Dumoulin to go uncalled earlier in the period. By calling a penalty in general, let alone on only one player, the officials clearly abandoned this attitude, which influenced the game in a major way.

Despite the loss, Pittsburgh still sits second in the Metropolitan division, four points behind Carolina and two points ahead of the third-place Rangers. The schedule doesn’t get easier for the Penguins as they take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The Panthers currently sit first in the Atlantic division, though they have lost three of their last four games.