The Rink Report: Penguins win important games despite being bit by injury bug during close playoff race

Written By Anthony Cugini, Sports Columnist

The Pittsburgh Penguins secured an important two points as they beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Saturday.

Center Evgeni Malkin scored a late winner for Pittsburgh as he netted a goal with just 1:20 left in the game. Malkin’s goal saved the Pens from another collapse.

The Penguins held a 3-0 lead in the third period but it quickly evaporated as the Capitals kept the game in arm’s reach. Center Dylan Strome’s goal with 2:44 left in the period tied the game at three.

A win is a win, even if it’s one that was closer than it should have been, thanks to Malkin’s goal to come away with the 4-3 win. Despite nearly blowing a three goal lead in the final period of play, the Penguins left victorious in a must-win game if they want to make it to the playoffs.

Pittsburgh played solid hockey over the past week. Star Center Sidney Crosby’s beautiful backhand highlighted the 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Center Jeff Carter mustered up two goals in the contest.

Pittsburgh followed up the strong performance in Colorado with a 5-2 victory, followed with a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars. Despite the loss, the Pens outshot the Stars 42-33. 

Goalie troubles were on the rise again as Pittsburgh’s starting goaltender Tristan Jarry suffered another lower-body injury and was left out of the lineup against the Stars. Thankfully, Jarry was on the bench as the backup goalie during the win on Saturday.

In Jarry’s brief absence, backup goaltender Casey DeSmith proved to be a serviceable starter as his performance against the Capitals was crucial in the victory. DeSmith’s highlight of the night was when he stopped Alexander Ovechkin, who was on the breakaway. 

Going into the game against the Capitals, the Penguins held onto the second Wild Card position — just one point ahead of the Florida Panthers. The victory secures a bit of breathing room as the Pens are three points ahead of Florida and just one point behind the New York Islanders for the first Wild Card.

The Penguins will head to Detroit to take on the Red Wings on Tuesday. After that, they’ll come back home to host the Nashville Predators and then the Boston Bruins. 

Detroit and Nashville are both on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. As for the Bruins, they’ve won 56 of their 72 games this season. The Pens have lost their two previous games against Boston this season, with their last loss coming in this year’s Winter Classic.