Published May 02, 2016
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins hope to avoid losing more ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Saturday afternoon when they visit a Columbus Blue Jackets club seeking its longest win streak in franchise history.
The Penguins had a two-game winning streak halted with a seventh loss in 10 games on Wednesday, falling 4-1 to the rival Philadelphia Flyers. It was a costly setback as Pittsburgh dropped into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division, a point behind the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.
The Pens now occupy the first of two wild card spots in the East and are five points ahead of the first non-playoff team in the conference standings, the Ottawa Senators.
Pittsburgh does have a game in hand over New York and Washington, with all three clubs in action on Saturday. The Islanders host the Buffalo Sabres and the Capitals visit the Senators.
Sidney Crosby had the club's lone goal versus the Flyers, the 300th of his career. He tops the NHL with 80 points, one more than Washington's Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares of the Islanders.
Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 31 shots by Philadelphia.
"Our forwards had to carry more pressure. They had to sustain more," said Penguins head coach Mike Johnston. "They didn't get enough pressure in the zone. And then the key goal was the power-play goal to start the third period there."
Pittsburgh remained shorthanded on its blue line with Kris Letang (concussion) and Christian Ehrhoff (head) out of the lineup. Letang is out indefinitely, while Ehrhoff is expected to remain out this weekend.
The Pens are set to visit the Flyers for a rematch on Sunday and hope to have forward Evgeni Malkin in the lineup for that game. Malkin did not play in Wednesday's loss, scratched due to injury. He had just returned from a six- game absence caused by a lower-body ailment, playing two games last weekend, and has been ruled out for today's contest.
The Blue Jackets are looking to play spoiler as they are coming off Thursday's 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders that helped knock the Pens down in the standings. The victory was the seventh in a row for Columbus, matching a club record set from Jan. 6-23, 2014.
Jack Johnson and Ryan Johansen scored third-period goals to erase a 3-1 deficit and Johansen joined Mark Letestu as scorers in the shootout. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped both skaters he faced in the tiebreaker after posting 25 saves through overtime.
"Guys stuck with it, and we got some momentum from Jack's goal. Found some energy and got the tying goal," said Columbus' Todd Richards, who picked up his 200th win as an NHL head coach.
Johnson has a goal in three straight games, while Johansen has amassed four goals and eight assists over a nine-game point streak.
The Blue Jackets conclude a three-game homestand today and have lost seven of their past nine versus the Penguins as well as five of the previous six meetings in Columbus.