PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Penguins are playing like a playoff team.

They're only too aware it still might not be enough to reach the postseason.

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

Pittsburgh improved to 8-1-3 in its last 12 games to remain one point behind Washington and Detroit with one game remaining in the race for the Eastern Conference's second wild card.

The Capitals and Red Wings need to lose on Tuesday for the Penguins' regular season finale against the New York Islanders on Wednesday to carry any meaning. If Washington and Detroit fall in regulation or overtime, Pittsburgh can earn the NHL's final open playoff spot by beating the Islanders, who clinched a playoff spot on Monday.

“Obviously, we need some help but given the position we were in a few weeks ago I think we would have taken this opportunity,” said Crosby, who has 23 points during his team's late surge. “So hopefully we get some help.”

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.

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 slip 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.

“We know we’re in, but at the same time, it’s about being ready,” Forsberg said. "I think the first period was not ‘ready’ hockey, but the second and third were.”

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 itself a chance to do the same.

The Penguins were nine points out of a postseason position in late March and appeared relegated to playing out the string. Then came a push that has them looking like the team they thought they'd be all along.

They only hope it's not too late.

“I tell you before, this team is amazing,” Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin said. “If we play like this all year, probably, we clinch the playoffs.”

The Penguins 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 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.

The Penguins lingered on the ice to sign jerseys for fans following their final home game of the regular season. They're trying to stay optimistic a playoff home date awaits next week.

“We’ve worked pretty hard to get ourselves in this position and get ourselves a chance,” Crosby said.


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

Penguins: Watching TV on Tuesday hoping for good fortune before facing the playoff-bound Islanders on Wednesday. ---

This story has been corrected to fix the Penguins' surge to 8-1-3 in their last 12 games, not 8-0-3 in their last 11.


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