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Crosby scores 42nd goal, Penguins keep playoff hopes alive with 4-2 win over Predators

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby scored his 42nd goal and added an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins preserved their playoff hopes with a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday night.

Erik Karlsson also had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, and Reilly Smith and Emil Bemstrom also scored. Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves while making his 12th straight start for Pittsburgh, which remains one point behind Washington and Detroit for the Eastern Conference's second wild card.

Filip Forsberg scored his franchise-record 48th goal and Gustav Nyquist added his 23rd but playoff-bound Nashville let a chance to lock up the Western Conference's top wild card get away. Juuse Saros stopped 34 shots but the Predators finished just shy of the seventh 100-point season in the franchise's 25 seasons. Vegas can pass Nashville for the seventh seed in the West by winning its final two games against Chicago and Anaheim later this week.

The Predators put themselves in the postseason thanks to a 16-0-2 stretch from Feb. 17-March 26.

Pittsburgh waited until the last possible moment to give themselves a chance to do the same. The Penguins, who were nine points out of a postseason position in late March, improved to 8-0-3 in their last 11 games by overwhelming Nashville early and then holding on.

Pittsburgh came out flying during a first period that may have been among the 20 most dominant minutes by the Penguins during their wildly uneven season.

A diving Crosby slapped the puck into an open net 7:02 into the game. The longtime Pittsburgh captain — looking very much like he's still in his prime at 36 — then fed Karlsson for a one-timer with 6:10 remaining in the first.

Still, it could have been more. Twice the Penguins beat Saros only to have the goals overturned due to goaltender interference. Officials ruled Saros had his stick stepped on during a scramble that ended with Bunting finding the back of the net. Letang's flick from the right circle later in the period was waved off due to interference by Pittsburgh forward Lars Eller, who appeared to be on the very fringe of the blue paint when Letang's shot whizzed by.

The Predators, heading back to the playoffs after missing out last season, regrouped in the second to pull within one. Nyquist's 23rd appeared to give Nashville life before Smith responded 57 seconds later to restore Pittsburgh's two-goal advantage.

Forsberg's flick past Nedeljkovic with just 2:24 remaining before the second intermission made it 3-2. The Penguins have had trouble closing teams out most of the year, one of the main reasons they find themselves outside of playoff position looking in with just three days to go.

This time, the lead held. Karlsson dished a slick cross-ice feed to Bemstrom 2:42 into the third and the Predators got no closer.

UP NEXT

Predators: The playoffs, where Nashville will try to advance past the opening round for the first time since 2018.

Penguins: Wrap up the regular season against the Islanders on Wednesday in a game they hope carries meaning.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

Will Graves, The Associated Press