Pens hope to end skid in St. Louis

( - The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season when they visit the St. Louis Blues for Saturday's battle at Scottrade Center.

The Penguins have lost three straight, including the last two in regulation, for their longest skid since a four-game slide (0-2-2) from Jan. 16-21. Pittsburgh also went 0-3-1 from Dec. 22-29.

The recent slump has been a costly one, as the Pens now found themselves in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference after spending most of the season battling the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Isles now lead Pittsburgh by six points for the spot in the Metro, while the Washington Capitals are one ahead of the Pens for the division's third and final automatic playoff berth. The New York Rangers are two points ahead of the Capitals in second place.

The current slide began with Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss in Chicago before Pittsburgh lost consecutive regulation games on home ice. Washington posted a 3-1 win in the Steel City on Tuesday, while the Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Pens, 2-1, on Thursday.

With the score knotted 1-1 late in regulation, Pittsburgh not only failed to capitalize on a power-play opportunity it allowed Columbus to score the game- winner while short-handed.

After Kevin Connauton went off for tripping with under four minutes to play in the third period, Matt Calvert drove in on net and was muscled off the puck by Blake Comeau, who crashed into Marc-Andre Fleury. Brandon Dubinsky took the loose puck in front and wristed it past the netminder to put Columbus in front.

"It's pretty frustrating. It's a tough way to lose the game." said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who had engaged in a fight with Dubinsky earlier in the game.

Evgeni Malkin scored the lone goal for Pittsburgh and Fleury stopped 28-of-30 shots in the loss. Crosby, meanwhile, was held without a point for a third straight game.

Pittsburgh will likely give Fleury a rest from backup goaltender Thomas Greiss either tonight or in tomorrow's game against Florida.

The Blues enter Saturday in second place in the Central Division and only four points behind the NHL-leading Nashville Predators for the top spot in the division.

St. Louis won for the fourth time in five games when it routed the visiting Boston Bruins, 5-1, on Friday. It was the Bruins' sixth consecutive loss.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and Alex Steen added three assists as the Blues used a second-period surge to take down struggling Boston. Tarasenko has a team-high 31 goals this season and also leads the club with 57 points.

"He's extremely lethal. As soon as he gets a chance there's a pretty good chance it's going to end up in the back of net," Steen said of Tarasenko's skill level.

Alex Pietrangelo, Petteri Lindbohm and T.J. Oshie also connected for the Blues, who boast a 16-3-1 record over the last 20 games.

Jaden Schwartz collected a pair of helpers and Jake Allen stopped 26 shots.

Brian Elliott will start tonight for St. Louis. He is 5-1-1 with a 2.26 goals against average in his career against Pittsburgh.

The Blues have won two straight against the Pens and have claimed a point in five straight encounters (4-0-1). Pittsburgh has lost six of eight at Scottrade Center.