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Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang represented the Metropolitan Division at the NHL’s All-Star Game tournament on Sunday afternoon at Amalie Arena, suffering a 7-4 loss to the Atlantic Division.

 ”It was fun. It was pretty tight for the most part, until the end,” Crosby said. “There were some big saves, some really nice goals, some nice plays. That’s what it’s all about.”

Crosby picked up a goal and assist in the contest while Letang notched a goal of his own.

“It’s a lot of talent. It’s a pretty open game,” Letang said. “You try to pass the puck more than you would. You also want to be careful with the goalies and players (for injuries). The fans paid money to come and see so you try to put a good show on and try different things.”

Crosby played with his longtime rival Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. The two superstars set each other up for goals of their own. Crosby teamed with Ovechkin last season and the duo helped lead the Metro Division to a tournament victory. Though this year it wasn’t meant to be both players enjoyed the experience.

“It was good,” Ovechkin said. “We didn’t have a lot of time to play out there, only a couple of shifts. But it was fun.”

“He’s a pretty easy guy to play with,” Crosby said. “As soon as you get over the blue line you look for him.

“He makes it look pretty easy. It’s fun to play with someone like that.”

Letang scored one of the nicer goals in the game. He collected a pass from John Tavares – he played with the Islanders’ Tavares and Josh Bailey – and juked goalie Carey Price to the ice before pulling the puck around the prone goaltender.

“Tavares was dangling and they were focused on him,” Letang said. “I was just trying to get there and be open. I faked the one-timer and walked around Price.”

For Letang, it was his first fourth All-Star appearance, but his first in the 3-on-3 format. He is a big fan of the new setup and hopes the league keeps it.

“It’s way better,” Letang said. “The 5-on-5 there isn’t enough room. Guys are just coasting. This you have to skate and there’s something to win. So guys are trying hard.”

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 6-5 overtime win over Boston…

* The Pens are finally starting to build momentum. With tonight’s victory, they have now won consecutive games for the first time since going on a four-game win streak from Nov. 25 to Dec. 2. And was it ever a character victory for the Pens. They were going up against a team that was on a 10-game point streak and playing with plenty of confidence. Despite a bunch of momentum swings and a lot of adversity – most notably watching a 3-1 lead turn into a 5-3 deficit in the second period – the Pens battled through it all.

“I thought we stayed with it,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I give the players so much credit for just staying with it and staying in the fight. I think that’s something we’ve talked about a lot in the last couple of weeks, just making sure that we control our own attitude and own pushback when things don’t go our way during the course of a game. We certainly displayed that tonight.”

* It certainly helps the Pens’ best players were just that: Evgeni Malkin scored twice (including the game-winner), and added an assist, Sidney Crosby finished with three helpers, and Phil Kessel and Kris Letang each recorded a goal and an assist. They were absolutely dominant on the power play, in the third period and overtime, carrying play for the Pens and leading them to victory.

* This was a tough night for the starting goaltenders. At one end, Tuukka Rask was fighting the puck all night. The Pens could sense it, and they kept firing it at him, never letting him get comfortable and beating him clean on most of the goals. Putting up six on a goalie like Rask is incredibly impressive considering he had allowed one goal or less in each of his last five starts. At the other end,  Tristan Jarry had been terrific for the Pens heading into the game and earned the nod, but struggled at times against a Bruins attack that scored at least five goals for the fifth time in their last six contests.

He was replaced by Matt Murray late in the second period, who came in and was strong in relief. He made a game-changing save with 1:01 left in regulation and the teams tied 5-5. Brad Marchand was awarded a penalty shot after a breakaway attempt, but Murray turned aside his attempt to keep the score even and allow his teammates to get the overtime winner.

* The goalie switch was a wakeup call for the Pens, who responded almost immediately. With just 3.6 seconds left in the second period and Pittsburgh on the power play, Crosby made an unbelievable no-look backhand pass from the corner right on Malkin’s tape. He went down on one knee to bury the one-timer, and helped shift the momentum back on Pittsburgh’s side heading into the intermission. Riley Sheahan made sure they kept that momentum by scoring the tying goal less than three minutes in. From there, the Pens pressed and pressed and refused to let their foot off the gas pedal like they did in the second, outshooting the Bruins 17-6 in the period.

* Overall, the Penguins dominated on special teams tonight. Despite having a big challenge in Boston’s No. 2-ranked penalty kill, which has been so successful because of its aggressiveness, Pittsburgh’s No. 1-ranked power play continued to thrive as both Malkin and Kessel found the back of the net.

“I just think they’re so dynamic,” Sullivan said. “They’re instinctive. They have a scheme, there is a framework there, but what separates them from other power plays is their movement and their instinctive play when they go off the grid a little bit. As a coaching staff, we laugh a lot internally because we would say, how do you prescout our power play? I’m not sure if it’s possible because sometimes we don’t even know what they’re going to do. I think that’s just an indication of their talent level and instincts that they bring to the table.”

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s penalty kill thwarted both of Boston’s man-advantage attempts with some tremendous blocks and clears. They are now perfect on the PK in seven straight games. The unit nicknamed the Jacques Squad has had to use different personnel with guys in and out of the lineup, but they’ve jumped in seamlessly. Meanwhile, Riley Sheahan has been an anchor, logging a team-high 2:27 shorthanded minutes while also chipping in a goal

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The Penguins fan base ranked No. 1 in the NHL and No. 4 among professional sports teams in the 2017 “Fandom 250,” announced today by FanSided of Time Inc.

FanSided’s “Fandom 250″ list ranks the best fan bases in the world of sports, entertainment, technology, lifestyle and more. FanSided editors gather information over several months and assign fandom points for longevity, worth, size, social interaction, buzz factor and passion. The list is touted as the “ultimate ranking of fandoms.”

The Penguins ranked 14th overall in world fandom rankings. For the full “Fandom 250″ list, click here.

Last year, the Penguins, ranked No. 1 in the NHL but were No. 18 in pro sports and No. 70 overall.

According to FanSided, the top five fan bases overall are the Ohio State Buckeyes, Game of Thrones, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Star Wars and Conor McGregor.

The top five in pro sports are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Cubs, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Penguins and Golden State Warriors.

The top five in the NHL are Pittsburgh, Toronto, Chicago, Montreal and Edmonton.

“Pittsburgh fans go beyond loyal, loving the athletes they cheer for,” FanSided wrote. For the Fandom 250 description of Penguins fans, click here.

Others listed in the Top 20 overall, include Netflix (6th), Beyonce (7th), Taylor Swift (10th), Lebron James (11th), The Walking Dead (15th), and Wonder Woman (19th).

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby also made the “Fandom 250″ list as an individual, ranking at No. 201. Crosby is the only NHL player and only Pittsburgh sports figure to make the 2017 list.

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Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins’ 2-1 win over Edmonton on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena…

 The biggest storyline heading into this game was Sidney Crosby versus Connor McDavid. The biggest storyline coming out of it was Matt Murray versus Cam Talbot. The goaltenders were spectacular and put on quite the show. With so much talent on both teams, this wasn’t an easy game for the netminders, but they did a terrific job. I thought they were both particularly impressive during power plays.

* Murray made a stop during a second-period man-advantage that’s a candidate for Save of the Year. It was absolutely magnificent. On a broken play the puck skipped right to Mark Letestu, who was wide open on the back door. It looked like Murray wouldn’t be able to recover in time, but he dove across and was able to knock the puck away with the shaft of his stick. Murray is a technically sound goaltender who’s usually in a position where he doesn’t have to make those desperation saves, but power plays are a different story. That was just incredible work by him to get across and keep the puck out of his net.

* Murray was the Pens’ best penalty killer all night, but he certainly got some help from his teammates. Right after that crazy save, chaos erupted in the crease. There were bodies everywhere, and Carl Hagelin ended up saving the day when he reached out and deflected the puck into the corner when the Oilers had another open net. Murray was down and out at that point, but Brian Dumoulin was crouched into a butterfly ready to cover for him if needed. Overall, the Pens did a better job of staying disciplined after getting into penalty trouble their last couple of games.

* The Pens lost Justin Schultz with about five minutes left in the first period when he took an elbow up high. He went to the locker room and did not return, and head coach Mike Sullivan said afterward he had been diagnosed with a concussion. Not only did the Pens go down to five defensemen; but the guys that remained took a beating in this game, particularly when it came to blocking shots. Kris Letang and Chad Ruhwedel both took shots off the lower body that left them in some pain, but they were able to remain in the game. Those guys definitely gutted it out in what turned out to be a surprisingly gritty effort, and Murray couldn’t have been more complimentary of them after the game.

* A win is a win, but this one is particularly satisfying considering how the Pens’ last game went. After allowing seven goals in a loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday they tightened up defensively tonight, especially at even strength. Sullivan said he liked the compete from his guys and that it was certainly a step in the right direction. Now they just need to have more efforts like this on a consistent basis moving forward.

* The goaltenders and defensemen were fantastic, but that’s not to say the stars didn’t shine. It’s a shame we only get to see Connor McDavid twice a year and once in Pittsburgh, because he’s truly a pleasure to watch. The Pens talked this morning about his incredible speed – not just when it comes to skating, but also skating with the puck and making plays. He showed that on a sequence where he danced around Letang and flipped a backhand at Murray that he was able to absorb with his chest, and later he sniped one late in regulation to tie the game.

On the other side, Phil Kessel had a ton of chances all night and finally converted when his team needed it most – 42 seconds into overtime. All in all, the game started off slow, but became an entertaining affair as it went on.

Finally, Riley Sheahan had a real solid effort in his first game wearing black and gold. It was a strong two-way game for the center, who was responsible defensively and made plays offensively. He capped off an excellent shift by earning the secondary assist on Ian Cole’s regulation goal before providing a tremendous screen for the defenseman. All in all, Sullivan said they were real encouraged by Sheahan’s game.

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Pittsburgh — Penguins coach Mike Sullivan insists the franchise’s decision to visit the White House does not mean the team is wading into the increasingly charged intersection of sports and politics.

Sullivan defended the decision Wednesday, stressing it did not serve as a signal that the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions are picking a side in the increasingly heated debate between President Donald Trump and NFL players who protest during the national anthem.

“I think there appears to be a perception out there that our organization has made a decision to accept the invitation to the White House that we have taken a stance on the issue, when the reality is, it’s just the opposite,” Sullivan said. “We haven’t taken any stance. The Penguins, as an organization and our players, have chosen not to use this platform to take a stance. There appears to be a perception that we have, and it is wrong.”

The Penguins released a statement Sunday indicating they would attend a ceremony at the White House, a tradition for numerous championship teams. The announcement came after numerous media requests following Trump’s decision to rescind an invitation to the NBA’s Stephen Curry after the Golden State Warriors star indicated he would not attend.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Sunday that he supported the team’s choice to go to the White House, adding “everyone’s got the right to go or not go. But we’ve been invited, and we accepted the invitation. I don’t think you have to read into it any more than that.”

Crosby faced criticism in his native Nova Scotia, with the Halifax Chronicle Herald — Atlantic Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper — running an editorial cartoon Monday depicting Crosby meeting Trump in the Oval Office, with the hockey player saying, “I’m Sid the Kid,” and Trump replying, “I’m Donald the Baby.”

An opinion piece from two local professors offered six reasons for Crosby to stay home, with the fifth saying: “Remember your roots. You are from Cole Harbour, the flashpoint of black and white race relations in Canada for the past 30 years. The parallels between your hometown and the U.S. today are too obvious to ignore.”

A column in Halifax’s alternative weekly, The Coast, compared Crosby to a notably apolitical singer: “The Taylor Swift of hockey has no problem joining his Stanley Cup-winning teammates in Washington.”

One of Halifax’s most outspoken social activists, El Jones, weighed in with a 900-word opinion piece that took the NHL star to task for failing to fall into line with other athletes. Jones, Halifax’s former poet laureate, noted that Crosby said there was “little to no discussion” in the locker room about the decision to visit the White House.

Sullivan defended Crosby from what the coach views as external pressure on the sport’s most popular player to make some sort of political statement.

“The fact that people seem to think that Sid needs to bear this burden of responsibility is unfair,” Sullivan said. “This guy does nothing but go to the rink, help the Penguins win championships and be a good person every day. That’s how we see it. Having said that, we have respect for those that choose to express themselves differently. I wish we would receive the same respect in return, and I wish our captain would as well.”

Former NHL player Georges Laraque called Pittsburgh’s decision “an embarrassment.”

Sullivan said “everyone is well-aware of what’s going on” surrounding the anthem, though no Penguins have participated in any protests. San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward told The Mercury News he wouldn’t rule out kneeling during the anthem.

Sullivan indicated neither he nor his players would talk further about the White House visit. Pittsburgh opens the regular season Thursday, Oct. 5.

“We want to play hockey, our players want to play hockey,” Sullivan said. “That’s what we want to do, that’s what we love to do. From here on out, we’re going to answer questions revolving around playing hockey, because that’s where our focus needs to be right now, making sure we are prepared for game one.”

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After a weekend of intersquad training camp scrimmages, the Pens held a championship game on Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Sidney Crosby’s Team 1 played Evgeni Malkin’s Team 2, with the captain’s group skating to a 4-2 victory. Here’s some thoughts, musings and observations…

* The coaching staff have kept Crosby and Malkin with the same linemates through the first few days of training camp. Crosby has skated with Jake Guentzel and Dominik Simon, while Malkin has skated with Zach Aston-Reese and Phil Kessel. “When a young player like Zach has an opportunity to play with established guys like Geno and Phil, it’s a great opportunity for him,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve tried to put some of our guys in those positions. We did the same thing with Dominik Simon, with Crosby and Guentzel. We’re trying to put players in positions where they have an opportunity to be at their best and show what they can do. What better way to do it then put them with some established players?”

* Crosby and Guentzel picked up right where they left off in terms of chemistry, and today, Simon truly looked to be on the same page as them. They read and reacted off each other for a few sweet plays. Simon did a good job of finding soft spots and getting open, and was rewarded when Crosby fed him with a perfect pass off a turnover that the winger roofed short side. “I think when you get back to camp, you just look to build off of things,” Crosby said. “And with Dom with us there, he did a great job for the three scrimmages. We’ll see kind of moving on, but I think for me and Jake, we just wanted to continue to build.”

* This is Aston-Reese’s first NHL preseason, as he signed with the Penguins in March following his senior year at Northeastern. Which means this has been his first chance to play with elite talents like Malkin and Kessel. “The first day, when we saw the lineup on the wall, it was kind of like, ‘wow,’” Aston-Reese admitted. “But they’re just hockey players at the end of the day, and just got to have a good attitude and just play to your abilities as best you can and learn from it.”

* It’s been an eye-opening experience for Aston-Reese, who said his biggest takeaway was the pace. “I definitely noticed the puck has to be on your stick and off your stick a lot quicker,” he said. “I found a lot of times, I’d wait an extra second to get the puck off my stick or shoot it on net or make a pass, and by the time I got the puck off the play wasn’t there anymore. So it was definitely a good learning experience and having that mindset every day at the rink, that you’ve got to be quicker and quicker and learn from it.” Moving into the exhibition games, Aston-Reese said he wants to continue his strong wall play and prove that he can handle the pace.

* Malkin and Kessel were a little slower to rediscover their chemistry, but today it looked like they found it. They had one lengthy offensive zone shift where they kept the opposing team pinned, and Teddy Blueger came in off a line change and scored against his tired opponents. They also had some nice passing sequences together.

* One defenseman who stood out today was Justin Schultz. Early in the game, he made a beautiful pass to spring Malkin on a breakaway, and later in the game, pulled out some incredible moves to create a quality scoring chance for himself. Overall, he definitely showcased his strengths, as he didn’t hesitate to join the rush and contribute offensively. And though he was often involved in the play, he didn’t let himself get caught out of position. While it’s impressive how the Pens won with a bruised and battered blue line last year, seeing players like Schultz and Kris Letang shine in these scrimmages is so good to see heading into this season.

“Just trying to get back into it,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t that long of a summer, but being away for a couple months, you’ve got to get back into it and get the habits back. It takes a little bit, so it’s good to play these games and get ready.”