The Tampa Bay Lightning will be hoping to halt a two-game losing streak–just their second of the entire season–when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Saturday night. Tampa Bay, which has not dropped three in a row at any point in 2018-19, is coming off consecutive setbacks against Vegas and St. Louis. The Penguins have lost straight (0-2-1) at the hands of Toronto, Carolina, and Florida.
McCann scores vs. former team
In addition to losing three in succession, the Penguins are 5-7-1 since winning a season-high eight in a row. However, they battled back to earn a point with a 3-2 overtime loss at Florida on Thursday. Forward Jared McCann scored his first goal in four games since being acquired from none other than the Panthers in a four-player deal.
“I thought he had a strong game,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of McCann. “He can really skate. He was real good on the penalty kill. He gets a huge goal for us, short-handed. … I think he’s getting more comfortable with how we’re trying to play.”“We want to make sure that we’re playing the same way every night,” captain Sidney Crosby commented. “We know what this is. It’s another thing to do it. We’ve got to put games together and find a way to do that consistently.”
Crosby leads the team with 61 points, but he has been kept out of the box score in two straight games. Phil Kessel (57 points this season, 798 in his career) has been blanked the past three contests. Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray (15-9-1) participated at practice Friday and could return after missing Thursday’s outing with an upper-body injury.
Still the best
The NHL-best Lightning still lead the entire NHL in scoring, but they are going through an uncharacteristic offensive slump heading into this week. Tampa Bay has managed seven goals in five games since the all-star break and has been blanked twice during this stretch, including in a 1-0 overtime home loss to St. Louis on Thursday.
“You’re not going to score at the rate we’ve been scoring all year,” head coach Jon Cooper noted. “Sometimes you have to go through some of these trying times to see ultimately what doesn’t work. But in saying that, we’ve played a couple 0-0 hockey games (through regulation) in the past week that have been outstanding.”
The Lightning split a pair of games with the Pens this season, including a 4-2 setback at Pittsburgh on Jan. 30. They are a mediocre 4-3-2 over the last nine contests despite still enjoying a 13-point lead in the Atlantic Division. Forward Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL with 81 points but has not scored a goal in nine games while adding six assists to his total during this stretch. Center Brayden Point leads the team with 31 goals–three more than captain Steven Stamkos, who has recorded a point in nine of the last 11 games (five goals, nine assists).
The Tampa Bay Lightning are:
- 38-14 in their last 52 overall
- 57-23 in their last 80 home games
- 55-24 in their last 79 games against teams with winning records
The Pittsburgh Penguins are:
- 2-5 in their last seven overall
- 1-5 in their last six road games
- 1-4 in their last five games against teams with winning record