Pens seek consecutive wins in clash with Sharks
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins look to win consecutive games for only the second time this month on Sunday night as they play host to the San Jose Sharks.
The Penguins had lost six of seven before beating the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 on Saturday. It marked Pittsburgh's sixth victory of the month and put it in position to win two in a row for the first time since March 6-7.
The Pens hope to repeat that success of back-to-back days tonight as they scored three goals in the third period versus the visiting Coyotes. Sidney Crosby had the deciding tally and assisted on goals by Daniel Winnik and Steve Downie.
Thomas Greiss was perfect through two periods and ended with 22 saves to get the win.
"We just have to build off of this," said Crosby, who leads the NHL with 78 points. "There's some good signs we had here today, especially all of the shots we had. We just need to improve on things here down the stretch and get ready for the playoffs."
The Penguins moved into a tie with the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division after the Isles lost to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Pittsburgh has a game in hand and New York hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday evening.
Pittsburgh saw forwards Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist both return to the lineup in Saturday's win. Malkin had missed six games with a lower-body injury, and Hornqvist was out for five games with an undisclosed injury.
However, forward David Perron missed the game due to illness and defenseman Kris Letang is unlikely to play tonight due to an upper-body injury sustained versus the Sharks. Letang was hurt when he was sent awkwardly into the boards by Arizona's Shane Doan. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
Letang is third on the Penguins with 54 points through 69 games.
Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start tonight for the Pens and is 2-2-3 lifetime versus the Sharks with a 2.25 goals against average and .936 save percentage in seven meetings.
While the Penguins are battling for playoff position, the Sharks are fighting just to have a chance at the postseason. They are six points behind the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division and eight behind the second wild card spot with seven games to play.
San Jose gave itself some hope with Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the Sharks' second win in a row and improved the club to 3-3-0 on a seven-game road trip.
Matt Irwin and Joe Pavelski lit the lamp for the Sharks in regulation, while defenseman Brent Burns notched the shootout winner in the fifth round. Alex Stalock only needed to make 16 saves through overtime and halted four of five Philadelphia chances in the tiebreaker.
"You look at the numbers and that's pretty much how the game felt for us," said Pavelski. "The pucks were laying there. We had some looks. We had some chances to score more than two. The chances in overtime and getting that power play is fun to play, we had the looks. We should have ended it there but it was good."
Burns capped a gutsy effort by San Jose's blue line as the club lost defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic late in the first period due to a lower-body injury. Blueliner Scott Hannan then lost Scott Hannan for the final 7:23 of the third period and overtime after he sustained a cut under his eye after getting hit into the boards.
Vlasic is next expected to play tonight, while Hannan is questionable.
Antti Niemi may start tonight for the Sharks and has gone 4-1-1 with a 2.66 GAA and .913 save percentage in seven games (6 starts) versus the Penguins.
The Sharks topped the visiting Penguins 2-1 in a shootout on March 9 and have gone 16-2-1 with a tie in the past 20 meetings overall. Tommy Wingels had the winner in the eighth round and Niemi posted 39 saves.
Crosby scored for the Pens and Fleury finished with 29 saves.