The Pittsburgh Penguins need a victory.
And while they have a lot of factors working against them at the moment, at least one is in their favor: Recent history.
They have won four consecutive games against Vegas, including each of the past two at T-Mobile Arena, where they will face the Golden Knights tonight at 10:08 p.m. Eastern.
What’s more, the Penguins are 6-2 overall against Vegas since it entered the NHL in 2017.
Get past those numbers, though, and a lot of factors skew toward the Golden Knights.
Like how the Penguins are missing their No. 1 goalie (Tristan Jarry), their top defenseman (Kris Letang) and, in recent weeks, most of the offense that normally comes from their top two lines.
And how the Golden Knights are 4-1-1 in their past six games, while the Penguins are 1-4-2 in their past seven.
But perhaps the most troubling issue facing the Penguins is their inability to protect a lead.
Their 2-1 loss to Boston Monday in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park dropped their record when leading after two periods to 12-2-4. That means they have been defeated in one-third of the games they lead at the second intermission, a stark contrast to their 32-1-2 record when ahead after two periods in 2021-22.
The Penguins actually have fared about as well when tied after two (6-2-1) as they have when leading then.
The Penguins’ third-period problems dovetail with Vegas’ fairly strong showing when down after 40 minutes; the Golden Knights have rallied to win three of the nine games in which they trailed at the second intermission.
If members of the Penguins’ top two lines can get their offensive games back in synch, they might well be able to get a lead on Vegas, which is allowing a middle-of-the-road average of 2.98 goals per game.
Should that happen, their biggest challenge might be protecting that advantage until the end of the third period.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Expected Vegas Golden Knights Lines, per Puckpedia.com
Penguins power play: 28 for 127, 22.1%, 16th
Golden Knights power play: 28 for 112, 25%, 9th
Penguins penalty-kill: 19 for 121, 84.3%, 2nd
Golden Knights penalty-kill: 23 for 105, 78.1%, 16th
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
The Penguins defeated the Golden Knights, 4-3, at PPG Paints Arena Dec. 1, with Kasperi Kapanen’s goal at 9:25 of the third period providing their margin of victory.
Jason Zucker, who grew up in Las Vegas, has three goals and three assists in four career games at T-Mobile Arena.
Sidney Crosby’s next goal will be his 20th, marking the 15th time in his career he has reached that milestone. Only 24 other players in NHL history have done that.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have scored first in 21 of their 37 games this season, while Vegas has done it 23 times in its 40 games.
Chris Stewart, the Penguins’ head athletic trainer, will be working his 2,000th game tonight, including 1,354 in the NHL.
Vegas likes to call its home rink “The Fortress,” and has defended it like one this season, going 15-3-2 at T-Mobile in 2022-23.
The Golden Knights have outscored their opponents, 43-23, in the first period this season.
Penguins alum Phil Kessel has six goals and eight assists in 40 games for Vegas. He has not scored in the past eight games.
Vegas winger Michael Amadio has a seven-game points streak.
The Penguins might be in trouble if this game gets beyond the third period. They are just 2-6 when that happens and Vegas is 8-2.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 105.9 the X