Crosby and the Penguins look to take advantage of the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning when the teams meet for the first time this season on Tuesday night at Mellon Arena.
Although Crosby’s 47 points rank second in the league behind teammate Evgeni Malkin’s 58, the Pittsburgh captain’s 14 goals are only tied for 20th in the NHL. He had gone nine straight games - the longest drought of his four-year career - without a goal before putting the game-winner past Buffalo’s Ryan Miller 43 seconds into overtime in the Penguins’ 4-3 victory on Monday.
“We bounced back from last game and played a good hockey game,” Crosby said. “We were working hard, and I thought we deserved to win. Hopefully we can build off of this.”
Pittsburgh (18-11-4) improved to 8-1-1 in 2008-09 when Crosby scores and 41-8-8 over the past three seasons. While he hasn’t been scoring goals with regularity, Crosby does have 13 points in his last 10 games.
Another impressive season from Crosby is being overshadowed by Malkin, who extended his point streak to nine games with three assists Monday. Malkin, who has five goals and 14 assists during his run, has failed to record a point in only three of 33 contests this season.
Rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski had his first two-goal game for the Penguins, who improved to 4-5-1 in December and pulled within six points of the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers with three games in hand.
“We haven’t been playing that well, so that’s a great road win against a good team,” Goligoski said. “It’s good for the locker room right now.”
A visit from the Lightning (7-16-9) should give Pittsburgh a chance to make up more ground in the division. Tampa Bay, tied with the New York Islanders for the league’s lowest point total, has lost three straight games and 17 of its last 19.
The Penguins have won three of their last four overall games against the Lightning, but are 1-4-3 in the last eight meetings in Pittsburgh.
Crosby and Malkin have both been kept relatively quiet by Tampa Bay during their careers.
Crosby has three goals and seven assists in 11 games against the Lightning, while Malkin has six points in eight contests.
Despite a pair of power-play goals from Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay lost 4-3 at Atlanta on Saturday to fall to 4-15 in one-goal games.
“It’s frustrating,” St. Louis said. “I don’t think there are enough guys that really want to win.
“When you’re six or seven games above .500, everything is rosy. When you’re in our situation, it’s plain and simple embarrassing.”
This will be the first game for Lightning forward Ryan Malone against his former team since he signed a $31.5 million, seven-year contract with Tampa Bay after spending his first four seasons with the Penguins.
Lost in the Lightning’s disappointing play has been a strong season from No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith, who is seventh in the league with a .924 save percentage. Smith, though, is 0-3-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average in three career starts against Pittsburgh.