A stagnant performance has the Pittsburgh Penguins coming home after another loss to a mediocre team.
They're hoping for a better showing Monday night against the Ottawa Senators, who handed them their worst loss of the season in December.
The Penguins (38-15-2) lead the Eastern Conference with 78 points, but their four losses during a 6-3-1 stretch have come against less-than-elite teams in Edmonton, Florida, Dallas and most recently Phoenix, 3-1 on Saturday. Those clubs are a combined 90-100-32.
Pittsburgh managed 24 shots against the Coyotes, the third time in four contests the Penguins have had that many or fewer. They had been averaging 30.7 shots prior to the last four games.
Sidney Crosby went without a goal for a fourth straight contest, his longest drought since a seven-game slump Oct. 26-Nov. 9. Pittsburgh is 2-10-0 when Crosby doesn't record a point.
"I think we didn't make it tough enough on them. We didn't hold the puck in their zone. They're pretty good at blocking shots and getting their stick on pucks," said Crosby, who has two goals and seven assists in his last four home games against Ottawa. "You have to give them credit, but I don't think we did a good enough job of creating, either. I think we could have done more there."
The Penguins have been better at generating and capitalizing on offensive chances at home, where they're 22-4-0 and have won 15 of 16. Pittsburgh is averaging 3.5 goals and 32.1 shots on home ice compared to 2.8 and 28.8 on the road.
The Penguins have won five of seven meetings with the Senators in Pittsburgh, but lost 5-0 at Ottawa on Dec. 23. Erik Karlsson recorded a goal and two assists and four other players scored while Pittsburgh was denied on seven power plays.
Ottawa (24-21-10) is also coming off a rough performance, falling 6-3 at Toronto on Saturday. The game was tied at 3 until the Senators surrendered three goals in the final 5:58.
It was the second time in four games they've allowed six goals.
Craig Anderson, who stopped 27 shots in the shutout of the Penguins, made 30 saves against the Maple Leafs.
Chris Neil scored twice and Colin Greening's second-period goal gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead, but the Senators were outshot for the seventh straight contest. They're averaging a minus-6.4 margin in shots over their last seven games after previously averaging minus-0.5.
"I felt we played hard," Neil said. " ... I don't think it's a 6-3 hockey game, that's for sure. It was pretty close back and forth."
Clarke MacArthur has eight goals and 10 assists in his past 14 matchups with Pittsburgh, while Jason Spezza has six assists and four goals over his last five.
Kris Letang, who leads Pittsburgh defensemen with 10 goals, missed his second consecutive game with an illness and is uncertain to play Monday.
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