Taxi Squad Steals One in the Skills Comp. Penguins 3, Avalanche 2 (Recap)

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Undermanned, but not overwhelmed. Sutter, Fleury lead Pens past the Avs in final road contest of regular season.

Sunday, the Penguins might have had more salary in the press box than on the ice.

Still, Dan Bylsma's taxi squad managed to grind out a victory in their final road game of the regular season, topping the Colorado Avalanche in a shootout, 3-2.

Brandon Sutter scored both goals for the Penguins, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 39 of 41 shots en route to a perfect performance in the shootout and his 38th win of the season.

Ryan O'Reilly and Patrick Bordeleau scored for the Avs, who are battling the Chicago Blackhawks for seeding in the Central Divison. Both clubs trail the St. Louis Blues by a wide margin and will look to gain home ice in a first-round meeting.

By gaining the overtime point, Colorado stayed two points ahead of the Blackhawks and still hold a game in hand.

Pittsburgh is locked into its playoff position, but put forth a solid, consistent effort all evening nonetheless.

The Penguins' lone goal-scorer on the evening, Sutter came to within inches of closing the game out in regulation and netting a hat trick after ringing one off the post behind Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov late in the third. Though the Avs tied the game late in regulation, Sutter's strong game helped the Penguins get two points in a game with little implication besides the need to emerge in one piece.

"We didn't have a great game [Saturday]," Sutter said, "but to come back here 24 hours later and play the way we did was great, especially with the lineup we had.

"Everyone played well, top to bottom."

Coming off the 4-0 sleeper at Minnesota, the Penguins looked like, and were, a different team Sunday. Sidney Crosby, Brooks Orpik, Chris Kunitz and Olli Maatta were all healthy scratches for the Pens, while Jussi Jokinen returned to the lineup and WBS recall Adam Payerl made his NHL debut.

There's no telling what the lineup is going to look like by the time the Pens hit the playoffs. As many as eight players who did not dress Sunday could be regulars in the postseason lineup.

Until then, the Pens have nothing to play for but to stay healthy. They are locked into the second seed in the East, where they are likely to face the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers or Columbus Blue Jackets in the Quarterfinals round.

With so few regulars in the lineup on Sunday, the Pens' lineup resembled those that took the ice in December and January. Pittsburgh has had to play nearly half a roster of call-ups at times this year, but looked competitive in those games as young players battled hard to make an impression on the NHL bosses.

That energy was present again Sunday, in a way that it hasn't been since perhaps before the Olympic break.

Payerl, making his NHL debut, logged three shots on goal in 9:33 on the ice. Payerl brought energy to the contest, but his most noticeable contribution was an eminently minor one that has been nonetheless absent from this Pens lineup all season.

While on the attack, Payerl seemed to follow up each shot right to the cusp of Varlamov's crease, inviting a party of purple jerseys to chirp him away. It's an innocuous move that at the very least shows a willingness to disrupt opposing goalies, and one that has been inexplicably absent from the team's veterans all season.

That willingness to make things uncomfortable can't be overlooked.

It's unlikely that the Penguins will carry many young names into the postseason, but it should be noted where the energy and attack came from in the win over the Avs.

"You give guys an opportunity, it's amazing what can happen," Sutter said.

Audio courtesy Ali Doyle, Pittsburgh Penguins

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