Marc-Andre Fleury continues to come up big for the surging Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been nearly unbeatable over the last two weeks.
However, over 17 years have passed since they last won at San Jose.
Looking to make it three-for-three in California, the Penguins try to pick up a rare win over the Sharks on Monday night.
Pittsburgh (38-18-9) has followed a three-game skid by winning six of seven, with its only loss coming 3-1 at Colorado on Wednesday in the opener of a four-game trek. The Penguins bounced back to beat NHL-leading Anaheim two nights later, then pulled out a 1-0 overtime win over defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles on Saturday. Patric Hornqvist scored 1:44 into the extra period while Fleury turned away 31 shots for his NHL-leading ninth shutout.
"We’ve been playing really good, and today was a grind," Hornqvist said. "Now we know we can play against anyone, and we have to build on that."
Fleury is 5-1-1 with a 1.13 goals-against average and three shutouts over his last seven road starts, a stretch during which he’s allowed one or zero goals five times. His nine shutouts are tied for the team record set by three different players in 1998-99.
"It feels good for the team," said Fleury, whose team sits in third place in the Metropolitan Division. "We want to get ready for the playoffs. They’re coming pretty soon, so I think that was a good challenge."
Pittsburgh could be in for another tough test if its recent efforts against San Jose are any indication. The Penguins are 3-12-3 with one tie in the series dating to April 1998, and they’ve been outscored 39-18 in going 0-9-1 with one tie at San Jose since pulling out a 5-2 victory there Oct. 22, 1997.
The Sharks (32-26-8) had posted back-to-back wins over Montreal and Vancouver before falling 3-2 to the Canucks on Saturday. Melker Karlsson and Joe Thornton gave San Jose a 2-0 lead midway through the first period, but Todd McLellan’s group was shut out the rest of the way.
"We got the start we wanted and we get the lead and we gave it away," said Joe Pavelski, who has a goal and five assists during a five-game point streak. "We can be better than that."
The Sharks, who recorded 40 shots for their second-highest total in 21 games, dropped to 1-7-2 at home since the start of last month.
"We weren’t able to get the third or fourth goal to put them away. When we look back at it, that will be what we key in on," said forward Tommy Wingels, whose team occupies fifth place in the highly competitive Pacific. "It’s painful because it’s a team we’re chasing and these opportunities, there aren’t too many more. We’re pretty disappointed not getting the two points."
Antti Niemi is 1-4-0 with a 2.65 GAA in his last five starts after finishing with 31 saves Saturday. He is 3-1-1 against the Penguins despite a 3.11 GAA.
Niemi will need to be careful against Hornqvist, who has seven goals and nine points in Pittsburgh’s last seven games.
"He’s been pretty hot," Fleury said. "Hopefully he keeps his stick for the next game."
Evgeni Malkin has also been terrific with seven goals and 14 points over an eight-game stretch. He has two goals and three assists in his last four against the Sharks.
Fleury is 2-2-2 with a 2.51 GAA in the series, with his last appearance coming in a 5-1 victory Dec. 5, 2013.