The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff berth on Thursday night with a dominating 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators. In their only meeting with the Preds this season, the Pens offensive firepower was simply too much early on as Dan Bylsma's club salted away the third period for their 13th win in the past 14 games.
With a 4-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes, the Pens added one more when Evgeni Maklin scored his second goal of the night. Malkin bombed one over the glove of Pekka Rinne for his 45th of the season. He's simply the best player on the planet for the best team on the planet these days. James Neal assisted Malkin on his second goal, as that duo continues to rack up the points. After notching four points against Winnipeg, Neal added another four points Thursday. It was a hat-trick that did the damage against the Jets but against the Preds, Neal had four assists.
Wiith a playoff berth now secured, the Pens continue to chase down the New York Rangers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They are just one point behind the Rangers and now travel to Ottawa to face the Senators on Saturday.
For more on the two teams, head over to the Pittsburgh Penguins blog PensBurgh and the Nashville Predators blog On The Forecheck. Stay on this StoryStream for more updates, and head to SB Nation's NHL hub for more from the entire league.