National Hockey League
Hurricanes-Penguins Preview
National Hockey League

Hurricanes-Penguins Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 10:01 p.m. ET

As the Carolina Hurricanes' offensive struggles have cost them key points, the Pittsburgh Penguins are putting together a run even without one of their top scorers.

The Penguins will go for their third straight win in this series while trying to inch up the hectic Eastern Conference standings when they host the Hurricanes on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh (37-24-8) lost Evgeni Malkin for the rest of the regular season and likely the first round of the playoffs when he exited Friday's 3-2 win at Columbus early with an upper-body injury.

The Penguins, though, followed with Sunday's 5-3 road victory over the New York Rangers before goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's stellar effort in Tuesday's 2-1 shootout win over the New York Islanders helped move Pittsburgh to 21-10-4 at home.


While Sunday's offensive outburst was nice to see without Malkin, second on the team with 27 goals and 58 points, the tight victory against the Islanders might be the style of game the Penguins need to win down the stretch.

Fleury made 25 saves through overtime and pushed aside all three shots in the shootout. Chris Kunitz scored in regulation and Kris Letang netted the shootout winner.

''Toward the end of the year, it's going to be games like that, one-goal games,'' Letang said. ''You have to be comfortable in those.''

The Penguins hold the first wild-card berth in the East and are within three points of the Metropolitan Division's third guaranteed postseason spot as they try to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.

Fleury's play over the last three weeks is promising for a late push. He is 6-2-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in his last eight starts.

The 12-year veteran has two career shutouts against the Hurricanes, including a 22-save effort in a 5-0 win Jan. 17 in Pittsburgh. Fleury followed that with 29 saves in a 2-1 shootout victory in Carolina on February 12.

Carolina (31-26-13), though, won the first two matchups behind strong play from its goalie. Cam Ward stopped 37 shots in a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 19 and then had 23 saves in a 3-2 overtime home victory Jan. 12.

Eddie Lack was the starter Tuesday and made 29 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss at Washington. The Hurricanes extended their point streak to six games, though three of those resulted in overtime defeats during a five-game OT streak.

The last one was bitter as it seemed the Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov may have been offside before Alex Ovechkin beat Lack in overtime. On-ice officials upheld the goal, which was challenged by the NHL situation room.

Victor Rask, Phillip Di Giuseppe and Jordan Staal are the only three Hurricanes to score in their back-to-back losses, starting with Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss at Buffalo.

Still, Carolina held the NHL-leading Capitals in check to pick up a point and stay within striking distance of the second wild-card spot in the East.

''Outstanding,'' coach Bill Peters said. ''I thought the young D did a great job and I thought our forwards competed very hard.''

The Hurricanes will play the fourth game on a five-game road trip which concludes Saturday against Minnesota. They've earned at least one point in five straight away from home, going 2-0-3.


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