Maple Leafs-Penguins Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins avoided a season-high third straight loss with a big victory their last time out. They’ve had plenty of success against Toronto, although the Maple Leafs appear to have righted the ship just in time after an ugly three-game losing streak.

The Penguins go for their fifth straight win in the series when they host a Maple Leafs team that’s seeking a third consecutive victory Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh (14-4-2) came into Boston on Monday off a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the surprising New York Islanders, the Penguins’ early rivals for the Metropolitan Division lead. Pittsburgh gave up nine goals in those games, but got back on track defensively with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Bruins.

Evgeni Malkin scored his second goal of the game 32 seconds in the extra period, Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists for his first multipoint effort in his past seven and Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves for his 300th victory. Pittsburgh outshot Boston 12-4 in a scoreless third period.

"(The Bruins are) a good team – a solid team. It’s always a nice place to win, here in Boston," Fleury told the team’s official website. "Those two (straight) losses were tough to take, but I think everybody stepped it up tonight, and we got a big two points."

Despite the rough home-and-home with the Islanders, the Penguins’ 45 non-shootout goals allowed are among the fewest in the NHL.

They’ll be facing a Toronto team that appears to have suddenly found its game at both ends of the ice – not long after a disastrous stretch in which the Leafs (11-8-2) appeared to be cracking from the pressure of playing in one of hockey’s most intense markets.

Outscored 17-5 during their three-game skid – 9-2 by Nashville last Tuesday – Toronto defeated Tampa Bay 5-2 on Thursday and knocked off Detroit 4-1 on Saturday, both at home.

The wins made the Leafs’ three-day break considerably more enjoyable after coach Randy Carlyle showed signs of strain during press conferences last week and the players were criticized for leaving the Air Canada Centre ice without saluting the crowd following the Tampa Bay win.

”I thought we did a really good job of focusing on the process and preparation. That was a big thing for us,” captain Dion Phaneuf said.

Tyler Bozak scored twice in the third period against the Red Wings and Jonathan Bernier turned in a second straight strong effort with 27 saves.

”I think we got back on track, playing the way we need to play,” said Carlyle, whose team had been outshot in four straight games before holding a 28-27 edge Saturday.

That stretch started in a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 14, as the Penguins outshot the Leafs 40-31 and got two goals from Pascal Dupuis, who’s out with a blood clot in his lungs that may threaten his career. Bernier made 38 saves while Thomas Greiss stopped 30 for Pittsburgh.

The defeat, the second of the season against the Penguins, also began the Leafs’ three-game losing streak and was Pittsburgh’s sixth win in seven matchups. The Penguins have won two in a row and five of six home meetings.

Crosby has 21 goals and 26 assists in 30 career games against the Leafs, while Malkin has 13 and 34 in 26 matchups.

Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul appears set to return from a broken hand that’s kept him out since Oct. 28. He has two goals and one assist in nine games.