The Pittsburgh Penguins have recorded most of their wins this season against Atlantic Division opponents, but they haven’t had much luck lately.
The Penguins have dropped three of four in their current stretch against divisional foes, but hope to get back on track Saturday when they host the New York Islanders in the fourth meeting between the teams this season.
Pittsburgh (11-9-4) won eight of its first nine games within the division in 2006-07, but is only 1-2-1 during its current stretch of five straight Atlantic games. The Penguins have already faced the Islanders (12-9-3) twice during this stretch, losing 3-1 at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 24, then winning 3-2 on Tuesday at home.
Evgeni Malkin’s second-period goal tied Friday’s game at New Jersey, but Pittsburgh then gave up three unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 defeat. Malkin, who leads the Penguins with 13 goals this season, received his second straight NHL rookie of the month honor Friday. He is the first to win it in back-to-back months to start a season since Ron Hextall did in 1986.
“It’s always hard to lose knowing I didn’t play as well as I can,” said Fleury, who fell to 11-6-3 with a 2.86 goals-against average on the season. “I have to put it behind me.”
Fleury could put the loss behind him with another strong performance against New York. He has been in goal for two wins over the Islanders this season, and is 4-0-1 with a tie and a 2.71 GAA in six career starts against them, winning his last four.
New York had gone 3-0-1 in divisional games this season, but kicked off a stretch of four straight with back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The Islanders tried to rally from a three-goal deficit Thursday, but fell short in a 3-2 defeat to the Flyers.
“We deserved what we got,” said Islanders coach Ted Nolan, whose team is trying to avoid matching its season-high three-game losing streak. “When you don’t work and you don’t compete in the early parts of the game, you can’t expect to try and turn it around in the last 20 minutes.”
DiPietro is 5-3-1 with a 3.34 GAA in nine career starts versus Pittsburgh.
The Islanders’ offense continued to struggle Thursday in its second game without leading scorer Alexei Yashin, who sprained his right knee last Saturday and is expected to miss up to three more weeks.
Second-leading scorer Jason Blake has five goals and five assists during a seven-game points streak. He has also tallied a point in each of his three games against Pittsburgh this season. Blake has 14 goals and 17 assists in 33 career games versus the Penguins.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby had a five-game points streak snapped Friday, but has five assists in two games against the Islanders this season and six goals and 13 assists in 10 career games versus New York.