Penguins ponder recent run of improved defense

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After causing many to wonder if their defense would short-circuit their Stanley Cup hopes, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been putting things together in their own end recently.

NHL.com points out a stark disparity. The Penguins allowed 36 goals in 22 periods (a little more than seven games) from Feb. 20 to the first intermission of a match against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 7; from that point, they only allowed nine goals in their last 20 periods (a little under seven contests).

That’s a long way of saying that things have gotten a lot better lately.

Maybe they’re tightening up because they’re playing without star Evgeni Malkin. Perhaps Mark Eaton’s return has helped things out a bit. It’s likely that Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun have a lot to say about those goals allowed numbers, too.

Whatever the reasoning may be, Sidney Crosby & Co. insist it’s been something they’ve been working on for a while.

“I don’t think it was something that just happened then,” Crosby said. “It’s been something that’s been in our minds for a while. It just takes something to just see it and identify it and then to kind of repeat it too.

“That’s been our mindset for a long time — but it’s something that we had to get used to doing.”

The Penguins are testing that improved defense against their up-and-down rivals the Washington Capitals on NBC Sports Network right now.