The Pittsburgh Penguins have had four days off to figure out what went wrong in a pair of losses that snapped their 12-game winning streak.
Crosby extended his personal point streak to 20 games in the Penguins’ two losses but didn’t register a shot, an issue he’ll hope to correct Monday night when Pittsburgh returns to the ice against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.
The Penguins (21-10-2) matched the eighth-longest winning streak in NHL history by pulling out 12 straight victories from Nov. 17-Dec. 11, but that run ended Tuesday in a 3-2 loss at Philadelphia.
They fell again 4-1 at home to the New York Rangers the next night, and although Crosby had three assists in the two losses to extend his career-best streak, something wasn’t quite right for Pittsburgh’s captain. He was held without a shot in both games after averaging nearly four during the first 18 games of his run.
“Even though you get points, sometimes you don’t always play the greatest,” Crosby said Sunday. “The last few games, I haven’t really been too happy. … I’ve got to be better.
“I’m always able to evaluate myself pretty critically after a game, and I think that’s how you need to be. That doesn’t change whether you’re getting on a streak like I am. If not, I’d still do the same thing.”
Crosby’s turned himself into more of a goal-scorer the past two seasons - his 77 goals since the beginning of 2009-10 lead the league - and the Penguins certainly benefit when he’s shooting instead of focusing on setting up teammates. Pittsburgh is 14-1-1 when Crosby has four shots or more and 7-9-1 when he takes three or fewer.
Crosby’s six shots at Phoenix on Nov. 6 led to one goal in a 4-3 shootout win, and he assisted on a tally from Chris Kunitz(notes), who’s expected back Monday after missing the two losses with an undisclosed injury.
Pittsburgh hasn’t had four days off between games this season, but generally a little rest hasn’t provided much of a boost. It’s 4-4-0 when it’s has at least two days off.
“It’s been a time where we’ve judged where our team is at, health-wise and how many games we’ve played,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s also the first time that we had a work day - to get some work with pace and speed and get that tempo and work in the practice that we can use in the game.”
Phoenix (15-9-7) wraps up the Atlantic Division portion of its six-game road swing Monday after an eventful visit to the New York area. The Coyotes fell 3-0 at New Jersey on Wednesday, then blew a two-goal lead in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers on Thursday.
It appeared they were on their way to another loss Saturday against the dreadful Islanders, but Martin Hanzal’s(notes) late goal sent the game to overtime. Shane Doan(notes), Radim Vrbata(notes) and Kyle Turris(notes) scored in a shootout to lift the Coyotes to a 4-3 win.
“Obviously, there’s some things in our game that have to improve,” coach Dave Tippett told NHL.com. “Fortunately, we found a way.”
LaBarbera is 0-2-0 with a 5.53 goals-against average in two career starts versus Pittsburgh.