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Penguins end regular season on high note by crushing Hurricanes

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a second-period save on the Hurricanes' Nicolas Blanchard on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a second-period save on the Hurricanes' Nicolas Blanchard on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguins defenseman Paul Martin tips the puck away from the Hurricanes' Patrick Dwyer in the second period Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins defenseman Paul Martin tips the puck away from the Hurricanes' Patrick Dwyer in the second period Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Jiri Tlusty beats Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a second-period goal Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Jiri Tlusty beats Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for a second-period goal Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Brenden Morrow watches as Evgeni Malkin's first-period power-play shot beat Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Brenden Morrow watches as Evgeni Malkin's first-period power-play shot beat Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Kris Letang knocks down the Hurricanes' Jared Staal in the second period Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Kris Letang knocks down the Hurricanes' Jared Staal in the second period Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a second-period save against the Hurricanes on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a second-period save against the Hurricanes on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguin fans cheer after Evgeni Malkin's first-period power-play shot beat Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguin fans cheer after Evgeni Malkin's first-period power-play shot beat Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin hugs James Neal after Neal completed the hat trick in the third period against the Hurricanes on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin hugs James Neal after Neal completed the hat trick in the third period against the Hurricanes on Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters lays on his back after being beat by the Penguins' Jussi Jokinen for a second-period goal Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters lays on his back after being beat by the Penguins' Jussi Jokinen for a second-period goal Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Hurricanes' Justin Faulk tries to defend the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin in the frist period Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Hurricanes' Justin Faulk tries to defend the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin in the frist period Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguin's Jussi Jokinen beats Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters for a second-period goal Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguin's Jussi Jokinen beats Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters for a second-period goal Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguin goaltencer Marc-Andre Fleury makes a first-period save against the Hurricanes Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguin goaltencer Marc-Andre Fleury makes a first-period save against the Hurricanes Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguin's Jarome Iginla throws a t-shirt to the crowd after the Hurricanes game Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguin's Jarome Iginla throws a t-shirt to the crowd after the Hurricanes game Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguin's James Neal throws t-shirts to the crowd after scoring a hat-trick against the Hurricanes Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguin's James Neal throws t-shirts to the crowd after scoring a hat-trick against the Hurricanes Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguin's Sidney Crosby signs his jersey for Nancy Morrison after the Hurricanes game Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguin's Sidney Crosby signs his jersey for Nancy Morrison after the Hurricanes game Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguin's Sidney Crosby signs autographes after the Hurricanes game Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguin's Sidney Crosby signs autographes after the Hurricanes game  Saturday, April 27, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013, 10:30 p.m.
 

The Penguins know who they won't play to begin the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The New York Rangers are out of that race, but Long Island's club is a potential opponent for the Penguins.

So are the Ottawa Senators, who have opened three of the past six postseasons against the Penguins.

The Senators play at Boston on Sunday, a game postponed by the Boston Marathon bombings April 15.

A regulation loss by the Senators will send them to Consol Energy Center for Games 1 and 2 of the playoffs, which for the Penguins are likely to begin Wednesday night.

Any other Senators result, including an overtime or shootout loss, will send the Islanders to Pittsburgh for the start of Round 1.

The Penguins will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series against either the Senators or Islanders — and any opponent other than Chicago in the postseason.

An 8-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes closed the Penguins' regular season at Consol Energy Center on Saturday night.

Right winger James Neal, returning from a concussion-related absence of eight games, notched a hat trick, and center Evgeni Malkin produced multiple points in a game for the first time since March 4.

The Penguins finished the season by winning 24 of the final 30 games.

Malkin and fellow former MVP center Sidney Crosby played together in only five of those contests.

Crosby, out since March 30 with a broken jaw that required surgery, is not yet cleared medically for contact. There is no timeframe for his return, though Crosby is not expected to miss much of the postseason.

Crosby's uncertain status renders Malkin even more important — a case could have been made, anyway, that the Penguins' fate would be tied directly to his production.

The 2009 playoff MVP and leading scorer, Malkin totaled 24 goals and 58 points as the Penguins went 30-14 that spring and the one prior.

He, like Crosby, missed the 2011 playoffs because of injury.

However, Malkin has amassed only eight goals and 23 points in 24 playoff games outside of 2008 and '09, and the Penguins are 10-14 in those other postseason contests, including two Round 1 defeats.

“One of the real focuses for (the Carolina) game was your individual game, being at your best going into the playoffs, and more than anyone it means a lot to (Malkin) to have a game like this, to play like this,” Bylsma said of Malkin, who scored his ninth goal and recorded two assists while attempting seven shots — shots are always a sign of his confidence level — against the Hurricanes. “In that regard it was a very big game for Evgeni Malkin.”

The Islanders have not played the Penguins in the playoffs since Round 2 in 1993. Those Islanders ended their two-year reign as Cup champions.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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