The Pittsburgh Penguins have been playing games inconsequential to their playoff seed for some time now.
They’ll get the last out of the way Sunday at home as they try to win two of three in the season series with the Ottawa Senators, who seek a season-high fifth straight win before watching the postseason.
The Penguins (51-24-6), who lost 4-3 in overtime at home to Philadelphia on Saturday, will play the Blue Jackets in the first round after Columbus secured its position with a win over Florida.
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"I think just to follow up this performance from today. As a whole, we want to feel good about our game. I think there were some things from today that I think were good," Sidney Crosby told the team’s official website. "For a game that doesn’t move us anywhere, it didn’t have a lot of bearing on us, we came with the right attitude, the right mindset."
The Penguins continued to be encouraged particularly after defenseman Kris Letang scored his first goal since suffering a stroke in late January.
Letang scored in the final minute of the third period to tie the game at 3-all. The goal was his 11th of the season, which set a career high despite him playing just 35 games.
"I’m just trying to get back into it," said Letang, who added an assist and has three points in two games since returning. "The result is disappointing, but I think we played a good game overall. … I think if we go into the playoffs that way, we’re going to win games."
Pittsburgh got a goal and two assists from James Neal, giving the forward three goals and three assists in his last three games.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 17 saves, which could lead the Penguins to start backup Jeff Zatkoff in the regular-season finale.
The rookie has never faced Ottawa (36-31-14) and would be looking to end a personal two-game losing streak before entering his first postseason.
The Penguins have won four of the last five against the Senators, including a 2-1 home victory on Feb. 3. Neal scored a third-period winner and has four goals and an assist in his last four games against the Senators.
Ottawa’s Craig Anderson stopped 46 shots in that game, and the Senators goalie might have played his last game of the season in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Toronto. He made 28 saves to secure his fourth shutout and has won consecutive games with a 0.50 GAA and .986 save percentage.
The Senators completed their home schedule at 18-17-6.
"It was huge for us," Anderson told the team’s official website. "I think it’s kind of been our Achilles heel this year of playing at home, but we found a way to continue to win here at the end, and to get ourselves back above .500 is a good accomplishment considering where we were."
Ottawa’s other four-game winning streak came from Dec. 28-Jan. 4.
Jason Spezza, who scored the game’s lone goal Saturday, has 16 goals and 43 points in 35 lifetime games versus Pittsburgh.