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Pittsburgh vs. Boston had the feel of a playoff game, and the Penguins delivered

Having the pleasure of watching the Pens’ tilt with the Bruins live in PPG Paints Arena gave off a welcoming and familiar playoff feeling. Hockey is fun again.

Boston Bruins v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

I’ve attended my fair share of Penguins games this season, both home and away. 80% of those games ended with a positive outcome, but the struggles I saw with Pittsburgh’s performance, paired with the frustration I felt while watching it this season, was hard to ignore. However, on Sunday, things felt a lot different, and in many aspects, warm, cozy, and familiar.

Coming into the Boston game, I was hesitant to count the Bruins out and a little nervous about how hard they’d play Pittsburgh considering the onslaught they gave the Hurricanes. Riding off a seven-goal wave the previous night usually carries over and gives a lot of confidence to an offense coming into its next game.

Ignoring how the Bruins played in the first period, that confidence translated to the ice, and apart from the outcome, Boston’s scorers delivered once again. The only difference for the B’s was Tuukka Rask who, in his own words, played like “horse s**t,” gifting the Penguins playmakers opportunity to strike and ultimately win.

Though what was glaring was how much the Penguins looked like their old, championship-winning selves. Their offense drove possession all night, controlled play, scored in chunks, and what may be the most relieving aspect of all, had their superstars play like superstars.

Sidney Crosby, who’s having a down year by his mighty standards, perfectly set up three goals and has been the primary points leader in back-to-back games. His vision is unparalleled, and seeing him find his teammates on the ice without even having to look forces your jaw to drop. Here’s another look at that pass and goal:

PPG Paints Arena was loud and busting at the seams — obviously happy about the barrage of tallies its home team put up on its nemesis Rask and the surging Bruins — OT was fast-paced and exciting as always, and everything seemed right again.

We keep talking about how each dominant victory by the Penguins is the “turning point of the season.” That overused, climactic term has lost its juice recently, as Pittsburgh, after defeating an opponent with ease, would go on to embarrassingly drop the following game in what’s best described as pitiful performances.

When Pittsburgh regressed to its old ways in the second period against the Bruins, giving up four goals against and basically offering all the momentum it built in the opening frame to Boston on a silver platter, things seemed bleak. All prior games considered, it gave fans of the Pens little reason to believe they’d actually come back when they fell 5-3. But Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the team’s established leaders and stars, didn’t let that happen this time around. That’s the difference. They fought back.

This win against Boston, dare I say, might finally be that turning point. Key word there was “might.” What differs from all those other times is the fact that this victory marks the first time the Penguins have strung together consecutive wins since December 2nd.

Now, with the bye week officially started, Pittsburgh slots into the final wildcard position in the Eastern Conference standings even though they don’t return to the ice until Saturday in a tilt against the Red Wings. If the playoffs started today, the Penguins would be going up against Tampa Bay in the first round. This is all good news and relieves some of the pressure off Pittsburgh’s back.

As the Pens take much-needed mini vacations to tropical areas, they can feel good about where they left things before their extended break. More notably, they get to rest their legs with clear heads in preparation for a struggling Detroit team.

When Saturday rolls around, let’s hope this team can keep rolling forward.