Despite being hit hard by injuries, the Pittsburgh Penguins are atop the Atlantic Division and challenging for the league’s best record.
They’re also on the verge of matching one of the best starts in team history.
The Penguins seek their third straight win overall and fourth in row against the Montreal Canadiens when the teams meet Wednesday night at Mellon Arena.
Despite currently missing forwards Tyler Kennedy(notes) (lower body), Chris Kunitz(notes) (lower body) and defensemen Jay McKee(notes) (finger), Alex Goligoski(notes) (lower body) and Kris Letang(notes) (shoulder), Pittsburgh (16-8-0) holds a three-point lead over New Jersey in the Atlantic and is four points behind San Jose for the league’s best record. The Penguins also have played portions of this season without star forward Evgeni Malkin(notes) and top defenseman Sergei Gonchar(notes).
While captain Sidney Crosby(notes) leads the team with 11 goals and 23 points and Malkin is averaging more than a point per game, Pittsburgh has also received strong play from role players Michael Rupp(notes) and Pascal Dupuis(notes).
Rupp scored his fifth goal of the season - one shy of his career high - in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime victory at Florida on Monday, and Dupuis added his third goal in five contests to set up Crosby’s game-winner on the power play at 3:07 of the extra session.
The 2009-10 Penguins are the fourth team in franchise history and first since 1995-96 with 16 or more wins through its first 24 games. Pittsburgh can tie the club record for wins through the first 25 games of a season with a victory Wednesday.
Monday marked another comeback for the Penguins, who have four wins this season when trailing after two periods. They faced a two-goal deficit in the third before outshooting the Panthers 22-3 over the final 23:07.
“You don’t want to have to come from behind, but a lot of things we did tonight allowed us to have a strong third period,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “Our guys poured it on and played great in the third.”
Crosby’s goal gave Pittsburgh power-play tallies in a season-high four straight games after it had gone the previous eight contests without converting on the man advantage.
Montreal (12-11-1) continued its strong play with a 5-3 victory over visiting Columbus on Tuesday behind two goals from Marc-Andre Bergeron(notes). Mike Cammalleri, Glen Metropolit(notes) and Maxim Lapierre(notes) also scored for Montreal, which is 3-0-1 in its last four games.
The Canadiens received another strong performance from Price, who made 33 saves. He has firmly established himself as the team’s No. 1 goaltender again after temporarily losing the job to Jaroslav Halak(notes) earlier this season. Price is 4-1-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average in his last six starts.
Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec(notes) have been the biggest producers for Montreal lately. Cammalleri has five goals and two assists in his last six games while Plekanec has a goal and nine assists during that same span.
Crosby recorded his third career hat trick in Pittsburgh’s 6-1 victory over Montreal on Oct. 28. The Penguins have outscored the Canadiens 14-6 during three straight wins in the series.
Malkin has been especially productive in his career against Montreal, collecting seven goals and 12 assists in 13 games.