With 1st Round Home Ice Secure, Pens Turn Focus to Three-Peat

The security comes thanks to a resounding 4-0 win over Ottawa in Friday’s regular season finale

Josh Rowntree
April 07, 2018 - 12:29 pm
Phil Kessel

© Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

When the Stanley Cup playoffs begin this coming week, the Penguins know they will be starting at PPG Paints Arena. 

The security comes thanks to a resounding 4-0 win over Ottawa in Friday’s regular season finale. It was a win that followed possibly an even more impressive road victory over rival Columbus a night earlier.

“We took care of business the last couple of games here and got ourselves home-ice in the first round,” defenseman Justin Schultz said. “So, we’re looking forward to the fun part of the season and trying to make another run at it.”

Just the opportunity to repeat looked to be in jeopardy until the calendar turned, as Pittsburgh sat with a record of 19-18-3 when the ball dropped in Times Square. A day later, they pummeled another rival, Philadelphia, on the other side of the state.

“After New Year’s I think we’ve been taking strides every single day and that’s all that matters in the end,” winger Patric Hornqvist said. “We’re far from perfect, but we’re still towards the way we want to play.”

No one is likely more grateful to get to this point than Kris Letang, who had an up-and-down regular season after missing last year’s championship run following neck surgery.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “Last year I was watching, so it’s not the same. It’s the best time of the year and I’m pretty excited, pretty pumped.”

While the Penguins will not be a top seed in what is a more competitive Eastern Conference than it was a year ago, they are a team that brings a swagger and confidence that has carried them the last two seasons. 

“They’re competitive guys, they want to win,” Mike Sullivan said. “This has been a challenging year for us in a lot of different ways, but what I love about our group is when the stakes get high we play at our best.”​