The Penguins figured to have excellent depth down the middle as long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were both on the roster. But with Pittsburgh's captain again on the sidelines, Malkin has been doing the heavy lifting for two.
Malkin and the Pens try to match their longest win streak of the season this evening with a third victory in as many meetings with the Montreal Canadiens.
Pittsburgh has countered a six-game slide by winning four in a row, potting 16 goals over that span. Seven of those have come from Malkin, who scored twice in the third period of last night's 4-1 win over the Rangers.
"I think his play has been extremely good. He's played at a high level," Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said of Malkin. "The way he stuck with it all game long, playing the right way, it's good to see him get rewarded that way."
A win tonight would match the Penguins' season-high five-game win streak from Oct. 18-27. They are tied for sixth in the East.
Richard Park also scored in the third period and Chris Kunitz also lit the lamp, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves. Pittsburgh also got defenseman Kris Letang back for the first time in 22 games due to a concussion. He had an assist and three hits in 24 minutes and 17 seconds of ice time.
"It feels great. We deserved to win tonight because we played better in the third period. We shoot more and we have scoring chances more. It's a great feeling, but we play [Friday] and we need to play the same again," said Malkin, who leads the NHL with 54 points.
If Fleury appears in tonight's game, he would set a new personal record for consecutive appearances. His start last night was his 19th in a row -- including 17 starts -- matching his run from Feb. 3-March 14, 2009.
Montreal has lost four of its past five games and failed to build off its own win over the Rangers on Sunday with a 3-0 loss to visiting Washington. Carey Price allowed all three goals on just 16 shots.
The Canadiens, who went 0-for-7 on the power play, are 4-10-1 in their last 15 and sit 10 points out of a playoff spot. Though 13th out of 15 teams in the East, Price doesn't think Montreal has put itself in a hole it can't come out of.
"It's still doable," Price said. "We just have to get on our horse and start riding.
"I'm not going to talk about frustration anymore, it's beyond that. We've got to figure out a way to curb that and figure out a way to do it."
Montreal has lost three straight and six of its past seven on the road.
The Penguins have won three of their last four over the Canadiens, taking both meetings this year. Pittsburgh has won four of its past six at home over Montreal.
The teams are a combined 0-for-16 on the power play this year in the two meetings.