Penguins move up the ranks, hand Bruins a rare loss

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It would have been understandable – though painful – if the Penguins lost to the Bruins on Sunday. After all, Boston’s been red-hot lately, and Pittsburgh was likely pretty tired after a tough loss to the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Well, if the Penguins were fatigued, they had a funny way of showing it.

Big win for Pittsburgh

The Penguins burst out of the gate with a goal 1:34 into Sunday’s game, and while the Bruins provided plenty of fight, Pittsburgh managed a key 4-2 win. This victory places the Penguins at third place in the Metropolitan Division with 83 points in 69 games played.

Pittsburgh’s likely focused on securing a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs first and foremost, but the Penguins at least are giving themselves a shot to move up the Metro ranks. Here’s an updated standings view for Pittsburgh:

Metro 1: Capitals: 41-21-7, 89 points, 69 games played, 37 regulation/OT wins
M2: Islanders: 39-22-7, 85 points, 68 GP, 35 ROW
M3: Penguins: 37-23-9, 83 points, 69 GP, 36 ROW

WC1: Hurricanes: 37-24-7, 81 points, 68 GP, 36 ROW
W2: Blue Jackets: 38-27-3, 79 points, 68 GP, 37 ROW

Ninth (out of playoffs): Canadiens: 38-27-3, 79 points, 69 GP, 34 ROW

With Columbus and Carolina holding a game in hand, Pittsburgh could easily still slide down to the wild-card ranks, and Montreal isn’t that far behind them outside of the top eight. Winning the Metro seems unlikely, and the Isles have more points and a game in hand on Pittsburgh, but there’s at least a shot at a round of home-ice for the Penguins.

How Bruins’ streak ended

The Bruins, meanwhile, kissed significant streaks goodbye on Sunday, as they had won six in a row and generated points in 19 straight before falling to the Penguins in regulation.

There were plenty of great moves (whether they resulted in goals or flashy saves) on Sunday, but the game-winner was the highlight, as Sidney Crosby‘s tremendous pass set up a slick finish by Jake Guentzel:

Matt Murray started back-to-back games for the Penguins on Sunday, a decision that clearly paid off for Pittsburgh. Both Murray and Halak made some tough saves, as players on both sides were denied some flashy chances.

The pace of this game was impressive for much of this bout, especially with the Penguins closing off a back-to-back set. Wins like these are important, and Pittsburgh played as if a lot was on the line.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.