After enduring their longest losing stretch in six seasons, the Pittsburgh Penguins appear to have turned things around.
The Penguins will try for a third straight win overall and fourth consecutive home victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
From Dec. 17-27, Pittsburgh (23-17-4) scored 19 goals during a four-game winning streak, capped by a 4-2 home victory over Carolina. The Penguins, however, followed that run by totaling six goals over a six-game skid - their longest since 2006 - which they finally ended with a 4-1 win at Florida on Friday.
The Penguins continued to make up for their recent lack of production Sunday with a 6-3 win at Tampa Bay. After Pittsburgh blew a 3-0 lead in the third period, Evgeni Malkin responded with a natural hat trick - his eighth career hat trick - to go with two earlier assists.
"I didn't think about playing a great game ... I know we have two points," said Malkin, who has six points in his last two games after being held to two in the previous five.
Malkin, the Penguins' lone All-Star representative, continues to pace the club while superstar Sidney Crosby remains out indefinitely with lingering concussion symptoms. Malkin has a goal with eight assists - four this season - in his last six games versus Carolina.
Teammate James Neal has a goal and two assists while the Penguins have won two of three against the Hurricanes (16-24-7) in 2011-12. He has three goals with an assist in the last two contests overall after going without a point during the six-game skid.
"When you're winning games and you have that confidence to score goals, you have that confidence to play the right way and do the right things," Neal told the Penguins' official website. "When you're in a slump with losing, it's tough to score goals."
Pittsburgh has scored 10 times against Carolina this season but the Hurricanes have posted nine goals. Neal had a goal with an assist and Malkin added two assists as the Penguins held a 52-18 shot advantage while recording their third consecutive home victory over Carolina last month.
The Hurricanes were looking to match their season high with a third straight win Sunday, but fell 2-1 at Washington. Jussi Jokinen scored for Carolina, which had totaled nine goals in the previous two games to beat Tampa Bay and Boston but may have run out of gas playing for the third time in four days.
"We've got to find a way to win," coach Kirk Muller said. "The guys played hard; they came up short. But I think they emptied the tank. It's what we asked them to do. The next step is to find a way to win it."
Carolina beat the Penguins 5-3 at home Nov. 12, but has dropped the last two in the series. The Hurricanes did not have young star Jeff Skinner for the December loss at Pittsburgh.
Skinner, who had a goal with two assists in the November victory over the Penguins, did not record a point Sunday in his return from a 16-game absence because of a concussion.
Cam Ward has won his last two starts against the Penguins - both at home - but he's 1-5-1 with a 3.27 goals-against average in his last seven starts at Pittsburgh, including two losses during an Eastern Conference finals sweep in 2009.
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