Sports

Panthers, Pens meet for key East clash

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will aim for a second win in as many nights when they host the playoff-hopeful Florida Panthers in Sunday's battle at Consol Energy Center.

Pittsburgh halted a three-game slide (0-2-1) with a 4-2 win Saturday evening in St. Louis. Blake Comeau scored twice and added one assist to lead the Penguins to the victory at Scottrade Center.

Patric Hornqvist and Brandon Sutter posted a goal each for the Penguins, while Thomas Greiss came away with a 21-save win. Pittsburgh went 1-for-3 on the power play and killed off the Blues' only chance with the man advantage.

"We did a lot of things we've been preaching over the last couple weeks, getting guys to the net and specialty teams come up big, especially the way they did for us tonight," Comeau said.

The Pens' recent slide dropped them to fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, where they still sit one point behind the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals for second place. The top three clubs in each division earn an automatic bid to the playoffs.

Florida is 11 points behind the Penguins for the Eastern Conference's first wild card berth, but is only one in back of Boston for the final playoff spot. The Panthers have made the postseason just once in the past 13 seasons when they qualified in 2012 before losing in the opening round to New Jersey.

With the Bruins idle on Saturday ahead of their game today in Chicago, the Panthers had a chance to take over the second wild card spot but instead dropped a 4-1 decision in Ottawa.

Aleksander Barkov supplied the lone goal for the Panthers, who had a two-game winning streak snapped. Roberto Luongo allowed all four Ottawa goals on 39 shots.

"Sure, you'd like to win because of the standings, but like I said, our team, whether they thought about the game too much or not, I don't know, but we just didn't play well," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We have another big game [Sunday] in Pittsburgh."

Pittsburgh will go with No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury tonight, while the Panthers will start backup Al Montoya. Fleury is 12-8-1 with a 2.55 goals against average in his career against Florida. Montoya is just 1-3-1 with a 4.28 GAA in six lifetime appearances versus the Penguins.

Tonight's contest marks the third and final encounter between the Panthers and Pens in the regular season. The clubs have split the first two tests in a home-and-home series back in December. Pittsburgh posted a 3-1 win as the host on Dec. 20 before the Panthers answered with a 4-3 shootout decision two days later in South Florida.

Pittsburgh has dominated the Panthers in the Steel City over the last several seasons, winning nine of the last 10 meetings as the home club.

Florida, which will complete a five-game road trip Tuesday in Chicago, is 14-12-6 as the visiting club this season. Pittsburgh is 18-10-3 as the host.