For the first time in more than a month the Pittsburgh Penguins have won back-to-back games, and it could not have come at a better time.
With their season looking like it was starting to slip away from them, the Penguins were able to finally string together consecutive wins thanks to a thrilling 6-5 overtime win against the Boston Bruins on Sunday night.
Evgeni Malkin‘s second goal of the night was the winner in the extra period.
Combined with their win over the New York Islanders on Friday it puts the Penguins back into a playoff position for the time being, moving them one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and Islanders.
All three teams still have games in hand on them (Carolina three, Philadelphia two, New York one), while Penguins are set to begin their bye week.
Let’s talk about Sunday’s game for a bit because it was probably one of the best games in the NHL so far this season, featuring wild swings in momentum, shaky goaltending, explosive offense, a penalty shot in the final minute of regulation, and a highlight reel goal to win it in overtime.
After giving up an early goal to Ryan Spooner, the Penguins erupted with three consecutive goals over the next 10 minutes to take a two-goal lead into the second period. It was there that the Bruins took over the game with four consecutive goals of their own and seemed to be on their way to blowing out another opponent.
Just as the game seemed to be out of reach, Evgeni Malkin scored with less than four seconds to play in the second period to pull them to within one. Riley Sheahan‘s unassisted goal early in the third period helped send the game to overtime.
Before it could get there Penguins goalie Matt Murray — who came on in relief of Tristan Jarry after he surrendered five goals in 32 minutes — had to stop Brad Marchand, one of the NHL’s top goal-scorers, on a penalty shot with just a little over one minute to play in regulation.
It is an encouraging win for the Penguins not only because it gives them something to build on heading into the bye week as they prepare for what is going to have to be a huge playoff push in the second half.
The Penguins have had quite a few games this season that have looked like they might be a turning point only to come back with a couple of clunkers that balance everything out. Will these past two games really end up being the turning point for them?
What these past two games have shown us is that the Penguins can score a lot of goals and win when their two best players — Sidney Crosby and Malkin — dominate. Over the past two games Crosby and Malkin have combined for four goals and seven assists, while one, or both, have had a direct hand in eight of the 11 goals in those two games. Only two of the goals were scored without one of them being on the ice.
The big question that has to be answered is what happens to the Penguins when those two players do not dominate a game. As I mentioned after their ugly loss to Carolina when neither Crosby or Malkin score in a game this season the Penguins are averaging less than two goals per game and have managed only a .333 points percentage, a significant drop from a season ago (when Crosby and Malkin did not score for the Penguins a year ago they were at .466 and averaged 2.5 goals per game).
Meanwhile, for the Bruins, the overtime loss extends their current point streak to 11 games. They are also 17-3-3 in their past 23 games and still have the fourth-best points percentage in the league.
It was also another big night for their offense as it was the fourth consecutive game they scored at least five goals.