The Pittsburgh Penguins certainly won’t argue with their current status as the league’s hottest road team, but they’d like to be able to provide some similar excitement in front of their fans in the final season at Mellon Arena.
Forgetting about their most recent home effort would be a good start.
The Penguins haven’t lost since being shut out on home ice 10 days ago, and they’ll look to build on the momentum of a perfect four-game road trip Saturday night when they open a five-game homestand against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Pittsburgh (6-1-0) clinched its Stanley Cup on the road with a thrilling Game 7 win in Detroit in June, and hasn’t lost a meaningful road game since. The Penguins opened their 2009-10 road slate with a shootout win over the New York Islanders on Oct. 3, and had won all three games on their recent trip in regulation heading into a contest at Carolina on Wednesday.
Despite blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, coach Dan Bylsma’s club came away with two points. Sidney Crosby(notes) and Chris Kunitz(notes) scored in a shootout to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 win and the first 5-0-0 road start in franchise history.
“It’s a pretty high standard to start the season,” said Crosby, who was held without a point three times on the trip. “It’s good that we proved to ourselves early on that we can be successful on the road with the way we play.”
Easily the Penguins’ worst effort of the season came in their last game before hitting the road. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin(notes) and the rest of Pittsburgh’s offensive threats were shut down Oct. 7 against Phoenix, which handed the Penguins a 3-0 loss that marked their first regular-season shutout since being blanked by the Red Wings by the same score Feb. 8.
“We’ve got to come back here at home and set the tempo in that first period with that mentality of that’s how we’re going to play, Bylsma said, “and that’s how hopefully we approach (Saturday’s) first period.”
While Pittsburgh has had four opportunities to make up for its ugly loss, Saturday will be the first chance for Tampa Bay (2-2-2) to erase the images of its latest poor performance.
The Lightning had won two in a row at home before traveling to Ottawa on Thursday, but went 0 for 6 on the power play - giving up two shorthanded goals - in a 7-1 loss.
“It’s embarrassing,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “… I know it’s only (our sixth game), but when you give up three short-handed goals in two games, there’s going to be some video, there’s going to be some talking and there might be some changes.”
After having a day to think about it, Tocchet decided to move Steve Downie(notes), the 22-year-old he called the club’s “most consistent forward the past three games,” onto a top line with Vincent Lecavalier(notes) and Alex Tanguay(notes).
Pittsburgh won three of four against the Lightning last season, led by two goals and four assists from Malkin. Jordan Staal(notes) has four goals and four assists in his last eight games versus Tampa Bay.