Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning are headed for the playoffs, but they appear to be trending in opposite directions on their way there.
Pittsburgh will try to get back on track Saturday when it hosts Tampa Bay, which it owns an eight-game winning streak against.
The Penguins (45-19-5) own a comfortable 14-point edge for first place in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ve lost their hold on the top spot in the East overall, falling behind Boston. They’ve lost three of four overall and three of five at home after losing four times through their first 27 home contests.
Pittsburgh knocked in three of Detroit’s goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Red Wings on Thursday. Daniel Alfredsson was credited with the winner with less than a second remaining, though it ricocheted off Marc-Andre Fleury and was knocked in by defenseman Rob Scuderi.
Evgeni Malkin scored on a power play in the second period, but the Penguins were 1 for 5 for the game and squandered a man advantage for the final 3:46 of regulation and the first 1:14 of the extra period after a five-minute major was assessed on David Legwand for hitting Malkin with the butt of his stick.
"We had more than enough opportunities to win that game," said Sidney Crosby, who doesn’t have a point in the Penguins’ last three losses. They’re 3-14-1 when he fails record a point.
Pittsburgh swept the season’s first two meetings with the Lightning – both in Tampa Bay – to run its series win streak to eight games. The Penguins scored four power-play goals on eight chances while outshooting them by eight in each contest. Crosby tallied three goals and an assist in a 5-4 final on Oct. 12, then had three assists in a 3-0 win on Nov. 29. He has three goals and nine assists over his last seven meetings.
The Lightning (39-24-7) hold a two-point lead over Montreal for second in the Atlantic and have won five in a row after a 5-4 victory at Ottawa on Thursday. Teddy Purcell scored twice for Tampa Bay, which has scored four-plus in four of five. Six players have at least two goals during the five-game winning streak, with Steven Stamkos scoring five since returning from a broken right tibia.
Valtteri Filppula also scored his 23rd goal of the season against the Senators and has three goals and eight assists during a seven-game point streak.
"We just seem to be scoring tons of goals," said goaltender Ben Bishop, who extended his Lightning single-season record with his 34th win. "We’re rolling right now and we have a big game against Pittsburgh so hopefully we can keep it going."
With two shootout losses prior to its five consecutive wins, Tampa Bay is looking to record a point in eight straight games for the first time since Dec. 10-26, 2010.
Stamkos has four goals and three assists in his last four matchups with Pittsburgh, though he was sidelined for the second meeting this season.
Malkin has 10 goals and seven assists in his last seven games against Tampa Bay, while Chris Kunitz owns a seven-game point streak in the series with six goals and six assists.