Penguins clinch playoff berth, drop Predators 5-1

WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer Published:

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Evgeni Malkin scored twice, James Neal had four assists and the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

Chris Kunitz, Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis also scored to help Pittsburgh pull within a point of the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with nine games remaining. Marc-Andre Fluery made 29 saves for his NHL-leading 40th victory.

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was held without a goal for the 12th straight game and failed to score a point, but it hardly stopped the Penguins from winning their ninth straight home game to keep the heat on the Rangers.

Nashville's Alexander Radulov scored in his return to the NHL after four years in Russia, but the Penguins picked apart Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. The league-leader in saves allowed two goals in the first 5 minutes.