Blues look to continue their dominance over the Penguins
Frustrations appear to be taking their toll on the sputtering Pittsburgh Penguins, who haven’t been able to stop the bleeding.
Still, they know they’re more than capable of turning things around.
The visiting Penguins will try to do just that Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues, who own the league’s best record over the last seven weeks.
While Pittsburgh (32-17-9) sits comfortably atop the Eastern Conference wild-card standings, it hasn’t looked much like a playoff team lately. The Penguins, 10-11-5 over their last 26 games, have been limited to average of 1.9 goals in nine contests this month while going 0 for 20 on the power play.
"It’s how you handle it and how you find a way to get out of it," captain Sidney Crosby told the team’s official website. "There is no better test than this time of year when the games mean the most. That will bring the best out of everybody. It’s been a while for our team to face something like that, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing as long as we handle it the right way."
The Penguins are hoping to avoid their third four-game losing streak of the season after scoring one goal in each of their last three games. Evgeni Malkin provided all the offense with his 22nd goal in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Columbus, a game that saw Crosby fight Brandon Dubinsky in what may have been an attempt to spark the club.
"When you’ve lost a couple games and aren’t playing right, everyone is nervous," Malkin said. "We have to stay positive, support each other. We know we’re a good team and we know we can play better. Every game we need to take small steps forward and play right.
"We have a good team, and in the playoffs we have a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. If we play right, we win."
Opponents haven’t seen much go their way against St. Louis (38-16-4), which has won 16 of its last 20 after getting by Boston 5-1 on Friday. Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and Alexander Steen matched a career high with three assists as the Blues put together a four-goal second period.
"We can quick-strike, and we’re dangerous," coach Ken Hitchcock said.
At 23 years, 65 days, Tarasenko became the team’s youngest 30-goal scorer since Brendan Shanahan got his 30th at 23 years, 63 days in 1991-92. Tarasenko is tied with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and San Jose’s Joe Pavelski for third in the league with 31 goals.
The Blues are 20-4-0 when Tarasenko finds the back of the net.
"You try to score on every shift so hard," he said. "I need to keep going. We have (24) games more."
Jake Allen allowed the game’s first goal before finishing with 26 saves to earn a sixth consecutive win. Brian Elliott is slated to start Saturday despite posting a 3.79 goals-against average in his last five starts.
Elliott is 5-1-1 with a 2.26 GAA against the Penguins after turning away all 33 shots in a 1-0 road win March 23. The Blues have had Pittsburgh’s number since 2001-02, going 9-2-2 in the series, including 5-1-1 at home.
Marc-Andre Fleury is 2-2-1 with a 1.76 GAA over a five-game stretch against St. Louis. He has compiled a 1.00 GAA in his last six starts overall, but a lack of support has left him with a 3-2-1 record.
This marks the first meeting since St. Louis sent Maxim Lapierre to Pittsburgh in exchange for Marcel Goc on Jan. 27.