The Pittsburgh Penguins (39-24-10) went south for a pivotal four-game against the surprising division rival and playoff pursuer Carolina Hurricanes (39-25-7) at PNC Arena, tonight. Last weekend, the Penguins lost two straight games but inched closer to clinching a playoff spot. Despite an endgame in sight, they will have to overcome an Evgeni Malkin injury and a gauntlet of Western Conference teams in their last nine games.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang could return after a three-week absence. He will be a game-time decision.
Tonight is the first of the Penguins four-game road trip which goes through Carolina, Nashville, Dallas, and New York. The Penguins have earned points in seven of their last eight road games dating back to Feb. 11 in Philadelphia.
Carolina trails the Penguins by three points for third in the Metro and continues to be a surprise after some experts picked them to finish last in preseason polls. After a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games, they are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Carolina holds two games in hand on the Penguins but plays only one team with a losing record in their last 11 games.
Matt Murray will start tonight for the Penguins. Petr Mrazek is projected to start for Carolina, but there was no official announcement, Tuesday. Mrazek is 18-13-3 with a 2.52 goals against.
The Penguins capped off a disappointing weekend with 2-1 OT loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday. Similar to the teams’ previous matchup, the Penguins could not hold on to a late lead, and eventually lost the game despite a strong OT. The game was scoreless through the first two periods before Teddy Blueger (4) found the net on a rebound. Blueger centered the second line after Evgeni Malkin was held out with an injury.
The Penguins looked to have the win secured with less than a minute left in action, but a defensive lapse led to a James Van Riemsdyk (25) one-timer to tie the game at one. The teams exchanged chances in the extra period before Sean Couturier (29) rip a shot past Matt Murray to win the game with 3.4 seconds left.
The loss was eerily similar to Philadelphia’s comeback against the Penguins in the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series in Philadelphia on Feb. 23. This fact paired with the Penguins missing out on the extra point made for a somber locker room.
Matt Murray rebounded from allowing four goals against St Louis the day prior with a commendable effort despite the loss. Murray saved 36 of 38 shots and helped the Penguins kill three penalties. Carter Hart started for Philadelphia and saved 41-42 shots. Hart almost singlehandedly won the game for Philadelphia by making some tough saves to keep the deficit at one.
Carolina padded their wild-card lead with a 4-2 win against Buffalo, Saturday. Carolina had 12 different player score a point in the win, including three defensemen. Curtis McElhinney started for Carolina in net and saved 35 of 37 shots. Linus Ullmark saved 25 shots for Buffalo.
Jake Guentzel leads the team with 36 goals. Just 19 other Penguins have ever scored 40 goals. Guentzel is also two points shy of 70. He’ll become just the fifth Penguins player in the last 10 years to hit 70 points. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and James Neal were the other players.
In the absence of Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins will need more production from players like Phil Kessel. The Penguins winger has dressed for 765-straight games prior to tonight. That’s the eighth-longest games played streak in NHL history.
Olli Maatta (Upper-Body, IR)
Kris Letang (Upper-Body)
Chad Ruhwedel (Long term)
Zach Aston Reese (Long Term)
Calvin de Haan (Right Eye)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||12.5% (12th NHL)||80.0% (9th NHL)|
|New York Islanders||20.0% (8th NHL)||87.5% (4th NHL)|
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jared McCann||Sidney Crosby||Jake Guentzel|
|Bryan Rust||Evgeni Malkin||Phil Kessel|
|Dominik Simon||Nick Bjugstad||Patric Hornqvist|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Matt Cullen||Garrett Wilson|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
|Marcus Pettersson||Erik Gudbranson|