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Grueling stretch ends with a bang-bang denial of Devils

Evgeni Malkin didn't have to say it. His slumped shoulders, his snail-like removal of his skates and, yeah, a soft smile told the story.

"I'm glad this is over," he'd say, anyway, after one final twirl as the official No. 1 star of the Penguins' 4-3 shootout victory over the Devils on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena. "This was tough."

Not this game, necessarily, though it certainly came with its own challenges.

He was referring instead, as he'd clarify, to this weird-in-a-lot-of-ways stretch of seven games over 11 days in which his team played in six different cities, five times against trapping opponents, and most of those without their only two net-front forwards, Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz.