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Penguins Claw Predators, 5-2

The March of the Pittsburgh Penguins continued on Thursday as they clawed the Nashville Predators 5-2.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins have made a habit of falling behind in games this season but when scoring first, they were 26-5-1. The Penguins made good on that number against the Predators (11-18-6 in such as games) as Pittsburgh won 5-2 at Consol Energy Center.

The scoring started with another "FLIP" of the puck in the air, this time by Carl Hagelin up the ice towards Phil Kessel, a bad clearing attempting by Mattias Ekholm inside the blue line thanks to Kessel's speed pushing him back forced the turnover to the left wall. Nick Bonino raced to loose puck and made a behind the back pass to Jeff Schultz floating near the blue line on right point and he was able to make it look like he was going to shoot and rifled a hard pass to Kessel coming around behind the net to Pekka Rinne's right. Kessel corralled the puck and put the puck into the net.

Replay - Kessel, 24th (Schultz, Bonino) at 3:06 1st period

While the Penguins would control the play most of the period, Nashville scored with one minute left as James Neal found Ryan Johansen in close against a tight-checking Tom Kuhnhackl. It wasn't exactly a good sequence for Ben Lovejoy again.

1st period stats

2nd period

Was there any doubt, what was going to happen for the Penguins as they once again lit the lamp three times to take a commanding 4-2 lead.

Kessel made it 2-1 as only he can with a late shift find on the breakout started behind the net by Kris Letang up the ice to Oskar Sundqvist on the right wall, who smartly moved the puck over to the left wall to Trevor Daley and just as Kessel made his way toward right wall with some late shift burst, Daley fed the puck in stride to give the time and space needed for Kessel to release his patented wrist shot.

Replay - Kessel, 25th (Daley, Sundqvist) at 2:29 2nd period

Letang makes it 3-1, late on the power play as a mad scramble behind net results in Sidney Crosby able to skate out from behind the net on his backhand to find Chris Kunitz who puts the puck on a platter for Letang (16th) to blow it by Rinne.

Replay - Letang, 16th (Kunitz, Crosby) at 10:57 2nd period

The party was briefly interrupted by James Neal on a semi-controversial PP goal as Fleury's helmet appeared to be loose but it wasn't off his head, so play continued and Neal was able to connect on a one-timer to cut the lead to 3-2.

Four minutes later, Penguins would hit on their second power play as a slap shot on the right half wall by Daley gets by Rinne as it appeared the puck just deflected off Hornqvist in front of the net to help to slide through Rinne's pads.

Replay - Hornqvist, 19th (Daley, Letang) at 18:24 2nd period

Stats through two periods

Third period

Carter Hutton started the period for the Predators in place of Rinne, who wasn't having himself a fun night in goal. Hutton's best play was flopping like Henrik Lundqvist as he bumped into Crosby to nullify a Penguins power play.

Bonino continued his little tear in the third period scoring a goal from a faceoff in Nashville's zone as he won the draw to get the puck to the point to Ian Cole, who shot the puck and Hagelin was able to move it over to Bonino at the side of the net. Predators used their timeout to challenge for goaltender interference as Hagelin was at the top of the crease but Hutton's attempt to bend over to make a play bumped into the winger and refs determined good goal.

Tweet of the Night:

Post-Game Hits:

- Carolina beat the Rangers 4-3 in regulation to allow the Penguins ownership of second place in the Metro division, one point ahead of the Rangers.

- Crosby finished the game with one assist to give him 599 for his career. Sid's next game will be his 704th, moving him into sole possession of 5th place all-time for the Penguins.

- Nashville is the last game for the Penguins against a Western Conference opponent... until the Stanley Cup Finals.

- Penguins magic number sits at two after the victory and would qualify for their 10th consecutive playoff berth.

- Marc Andre Fleury's 35th win on the season is the 7th time in his career to hit 35 or more wins. He's now 8-1 in his last nine games.

- Sunday's game against the Flyers has moved from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM.