PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — The playoffs are now set for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they are guaranteed home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Pens needed a win to guarantee home ice and got just that with a 5-2 victory against the New York Rangers Thursday night at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, as they defeated Buffalo, 2-1, Thursday night.
“The No. 50 is the big number today,” said Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis, who extended his NHL-best points streak to 16 games with an assist. “Fifty wins was the goal we set at the start of the season. We should all be proud of 50 wins.
“I don’t really talk about myself much. It’s a team effort. Sixteen is great, but the big picture is 50 wins, home-ice. That’s the main thing here.”
All that’s left is the regular season finale, which conveniently pits the Penguins and Flyers against one another.
Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury tied Tom Barrasso for the franchise record of 226 wins by a goaltender Thursday, stopping 35 of 37 New York. He also pushed his personal record of wins in a single season to 42.
“It means I’m getting old a little bit I guess. I’ve been around for a little bit,” Fleury joked, according to the team’s official website. “It’s a great honor for me to catch up with a guy like (Barrasso). He’s a guy I always looked up to when I was younger and it’s nice honor to reach him.”
Chris Kunitz opened the game by scoring his 25th goal of the season just 1:11 in. Brandon Dubinsky scored a little over three minutes later for the Rangers to tie the game, 1-1.
Four minutes later Tyler Kennedy put the Penguins ahead once again with a wrister from the bottom of the left faceoff dot, and the Penguins wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
After Richard Park scored the lone goal of the second period for a 3-1 Pittsburgh lead, Evgeni Malkin scored his 49th goal of the season at 9:06 of the third period to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead.
He has one game left to reach 50 goals on the season, which he says is a personal goal.
“I think it’s very important for me because most people don’t believe I can play at my level,” Malkin said. “I had a great summer and stayed positive. I don’t think about points. I came back this year and just start playing 100 percent every game. The points continued and kept coming and it’s just a great year.”
- Forwards Steve Sullivan (lower-body) and James Neal (lower-body) and defenseman Matt Niskanen (upper-body) sat out Thursday night’s game. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma says he expects all three to be healthy for the start of the playoffs.