The Pittsburgh Penguins have matched their longest losing streak of the season and owning one of the NHL’s least productive power-play units isn’t helping.
A meeting with the Florida Panthers - another struggling team - could be coming at the perfect time.
The Penguins look to complete their first season sweep of the Panthers when they conclude a four-game road trip Sunday.
Pittsburgh (26-15-1) had been in the thick of the race for the best overall record in the NHL, but has dropped four in a row, including the first three games of this trip. The skid matches the Penguins’ longest of the season set Nov. 5-12, and they haven’t dropped five straight since Dec. 27, 2008-Jan. 5, 2009.
The Penguins got closer to that dubious mark Saturday, falling 3-1 at Tampa Bay.
“The urgency level now should be there if it has not been,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “And maybe it hasn’t been, looking at our record over the last few games.”
Pittsburgh’s struggles have been partly due to a power play that has sputtered throughout the season, ranking among the worst in the league with a 14.8 success rate. The unit, which went 0 for 4 Saturday, has been even worse on the road, converting 10.6 percent while going 2 for 32 in the last seven as visitors.
“There’s no real excuses,” said captain Sidney Crosby(notes), who has eight of the club’s 26 power-play goals. “We’re not executing and we’re paying the price for it. We’ve got a group who’s got a lot of character and pride in their game, but our focus has got to be on executing.”
Crosby, who ranks among the league leaders with 23 goals and 48 points, has scored only once in seven games, but has added six assists in that stretch. Malkin hasn’t found the net for four games after recording a hat trick in an 8-2 win over Ottawa on Dec. 23.
The two All-Stars may have an ideal chance to a shake their offensive slumps against the Panthers (16-18-7).
Crosby has 10 goals and 12 assists in 18 games against Florida, while Malkin has four goals and 12 assists in 15 career meetings after scoring 37 seconds into overtime to clinch a 3-2 win on Dec. 12.
The Penguins have won five of their last six with the Panthers, including all three matchups this season with each determined in either overtime or shootout.
While Pittsburgh is trying to avoid losing every game of its trip, Florida is hoping to salvage a win from its three-game homestand after falling 5-4 to Montreal on Thursday following a 2-1 loss to Boston four nights prior.
Tomas Vokoun(notes) will likely be in net after making 37 saves against the Canadiens to lose a second consecutive start while giving up nine goals on 74 shots. Those defeats have come after he posted a 2.00 goals-against average during a personal four-game winning streak.
Vokoun is 1-4-4 with a 2.97 GAA in nine games against Pittsburgh.