Pens hope to extend win streak versus Hurricanes

The Pittsburgh Penguins will take aim at a fourth consecutive victory tonight, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes for a battle at Consol Energy Center.

With recent wins over Buffalo, Chicago and Winnipeg, the Penguins are on their first three-game winning streak since posting five straight victories from Oct. 18-27. Pittsburgh has scored 15 goals over its current win streak, which has improved the Pens' record in December to 6-4.

Pascal Dupuis, Jordan Staal, James Neal and Joe Vitale all scored for the Penguins in Friday's road win over the Jets, while Chris Kunitz added two assists.

Meanwhile, Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury needed to make just 18 stops to lead his team past Winnipeg.

"I think the guy (counting) the shots was sleeping a couple of times, he (missed) a lot," said Fleury. "Other than that, in the second though, it was quiet, sometimes kind of (slow) back there, but that's when you have to stay focused and get ready for the next shot."

Pittsburgh is still without superstar Sidney Crosby, who is dealing with concussion-related symptoms. Defensemen Paul Martin (leg), Zbynek Michalek (concussion) and Kris Letang (nose/concussion) are also sidelined with their own issues. Martin could return tonight and is listed as questionable.

With Crosby sidelined, Neal and fellow forward Evgeni Malkin have been carrying Pittsburgh's offense, as both players enter tonight riding seven-game point streaks. Neal has six goals and three assists during his run, while Malkin has six markers and 10 assists.

Pittsburgh has won its last two home games and is 10-3-2 as the host this season.

The Hurricanes, who are currently 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, have won their last two games and can match their longest winning streak of the season tonight. Carolina posted three straight wins from Oct. 12-18.

Carolina posted an overtime win over Ottawa on Friday and emerged from the Christmas break to defeat the New Jersey Devils on Monday. The 4-2 decision over the Devils ended a three-game homestand for the Hurricanes. Carolina, which is 4-9-4 as the guest this year, will try to end a three-game road skid this evening.

Monday's win over New Jersey featured a bizarre late-game sequence that ended with goaltender Cam Ward being credited with his first career goal. Ward, who became the first goaltender in Whalers/Hurricanes history to have a goal to his credit, also stopped 23 shots to record his 12th win of the year.

"It was just a fluke thing that happened," Ward sheepishly admitted after the game. "It would have been nicer if (Brandon) Sutter could have gotten credit because he works so hard. It is what it is."

Sutter scored his seventh goal of the season, but he was denied the second multi-goal game of his career. Tuomo Ruutu and Anthony Stewart also tallied for the Hurricanes, who have won three of five.

In the final minute, Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg was sent to the bench, setting the stage for Hurricanes history. Ilya Kovalchuk intended to pass from along the goal line back to Adam Henrique near the left point, but the puck eluded a falling Henrique and slid all the way down into the visitors' net with 29.4 seconds left.

Initially, the goal was credited to Sutter, after video evidence appeared to show him tipping the Kovalchuk pass ever so slightly. But upon further review after the end of the game, Ward was given the goal since he was shown to be the last Carolina player to touch the puck.

Ward becomes the first NHL goalie to get credited with a goal since Chris Mason did it for Nashville in 2006. He is the 10th netminder in NHL history to pull off the feat.

The Pens and Hurricanes met twice in Raleigh earlier this season and both teams won one of those encounters. Pittsburgh has taken four of six overall in the series and has won two straight and six of the last nine matchups in the Steel City.