The Pittsburgh Penguins have ended a six-game losing streak. Now they get a chance to prevent the Tampa Bay Lightning from doing the same.
The Penguins have lost their last four matchups with the Lightning including the playoffs heading into Sunday’s contest at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Pittsburgh (22-17-4) ended its six-game slide with Friday’s 4-1 victory at Florida. The skid was the club’s longest since an 0-5-2 stretch Jan. 26-Feb. 8, 2006.
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The Penguins totaled six goals during the losing streak, capped by Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Washington.
“We talked about it this morning and the guys said it, ‘We need 20 leaders,'” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I think the guys did come together. I think we liked the way we played in Washington, we liked the way we play as a team. We like the way we responded and we wanted to keep going in that direction.”
While Pittsburgh was ebullient after the victory, Tampa Bay’s woes continued Friday in a 4-3 road loss to the Capitals. The Lightning (17-22-4) never recovered after yielding two power-play goals in the first period and fell to 0-5-1 in January.
“We’re the ones that need some help, and it’s the opposite,” coach Guy Boucher said. “We get two penalties just for absolutely nothing, calls that are never called during the entire year.”
Tampa Bay won 4-1 at home over Pittsburgh on Nov. 17 behind two goals from Vincent Lecavalier. That marked the teams’ first meeting since the Lightning rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Penguins in last year’s playoffs.
Including the end of that series, Marc-Andre Fleury is 0-4-0 with a 3.59 goals-against average in his last four starts against Tampa Bay.
Fleury made 25 saves Friday to earn his first win since Dec. 27.
“It’s a huge relief. It wasn’t fun for anybody,” Fleury said. “It got frustrating, but everybody stuck together. Our last game in Washington was a good game for a lot of guys, but we couldn’t win that one. (Friday) again we played well, offensively, defensively, and it paid off.”
James Neal was held without a point during the losing streak, but he had one goal and one assist against the Panthers.
“It’s obviously a good feeling to get out of a slump like that,” Neal said. “It’s been a long time since a win.”
It’s a feeling the Lightning haven’t experienced since a 5-2 victory over Carolina on Dec. 31. Steven Stamkos took little solace in scoring his NHL-leading 30th goal Friday.
“It’s been too many of those this year where we deserve to win and we don’t and some where we play like crap and we do lose so it’s frustrating,” Stamkos said.
The Lightning, who have allowed a league-high 3.42 goals per game, have not dropped seven straight since going 0-7-2 to close the 2008-09 season.
“We’ve got injuries over injuries and adversity after adversity, and the breaks are just not coming at all,” Boucher said.
Stamkos’ power-play goal Friday was Tampa Bay’s lone score with the man advantage in 19 chances during its skid.
Pittsburgh is 0 for 24 on the power play in its last four games against Tampa Bay and 1 for 47 in the last nine meetings, including the playoffs.
Much of those struggles came against Dwayne Roloson, who had a 1.77 GAA against the Penguins in the playoffs. Roloson, however, hasn’t won since beating Pittsburgh in November, going 0-6-1 with a 4.39 GAA in eight starts since.