The Penguins had posted their season-high eighth straight win Tuesday against the visiting Maple Leafs, notching a 5-4 shootout win at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh erased a three-goal deficit in the third period to win that contest and Evgeni Malkin scored with just 6.6 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. Malkin also provided the winning tally in the shootout.
Wednesday's finale of the home-and-home did not go as well, however, as Toronto shut down Pittsburgh's offensive attack in a 1-0 decision at Air Canada Centre. It was the first loss for the Penguins since Jan. 11, when they were also dealt a 1-0 loss by Washington.
Brent Johnson earned his first start in net for Pittsburgh since Jan. 10 and he played well in defeat, making 23 saves for the Penguins. No. 1 netminder Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to be back in net today for the Pens.
"I'm obviously disappointed in the loss, but it's definitely a step in the right direction," said Johnson, who hasn't won since December 3 and was pulled from his previous two starts. "I tried to simplify things out there and things were working pretty well tonight. I felt confident, felt good."
Pittsburgh is 14-11-2 as the guest this year and is playing the second tilt of a four-game road trip today. The Pens will also visit New Jersey tomorrow afternoon before capping the swing Tuesday night in Montreal.
Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby (neck) and Jordan Staal (knee) and defenseman Simon Despres (lower body) have been skating recently, but there is still no word on when any of them will return to game action. Crosby, of course, was diagnosed with soft tissue damage in his neck earlier this week, which seems to be an improvement from the post-concussion symptoms that the team believed was preventing him from playing.
The Bruins have dropped two of their last three games and have posted a 6-5-1 record over the last few weeks. Boston is still leading the Northeast Division with 66 points and is just three points behind the New York Rangers for the top spot in the East.
Boston's struggles against Carolina continued in its last trip to the ice, as the Bruins dropped a 3-0 home decision against the Hurricanes on Thursday. That setback allowed the Hurricanes, who are tied for last in the East, to sweep the four meetings with the B's this season.
The Bruins simply could not solve Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward on Thursday, as they fired 47 shots at the former Conn Smythe winner and he turned aside every one of them. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves for the Bruins, who have alternated wins and losses in their last 10 games.
"We have to understand that we are not that great of a team when we go out there and just play through the motions," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "The reality is that right now we are playing like a team that is at the bottom of the standings, not near the top."
The Bruins are 17-8-2 as the host this year and are completing a three-game homestand this afternoon.
Boston and the Pens have met just once this season when the B's posted a 3-1 victory in Pittsburgh on Dec. 5. The Bruins have won three of five overall in this series, but the Pens have taken three straight in Beantown.