The Pittsburgh Penguins have come from behind to win eight times on their 11-game winning streak, though the deficit they faced before rallying in Philadelphia was a bit more challenging than most.
For the floundering Flyers, it’s going to take an impressive comeback just to join their cross-state rivals in the postseason.
The Penguins might have Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang back Sunday night as they try to claim the NHL’s longest winning streak this season while handing the Flyers a league-worst 13th regulation loss on the road.
Pittsburgh (24-8-0) opened March with a pair of come-from-behind, one-goal wins, but perhaps its most impressive and unlikely victory of the season came March 7 in Philadelphia. Down 4-1 after one period, the Penguins scored the game’s final four goals to hand the Flyers their first regulation loss in which they held a three-goal lead since January 1993.
“It’s embarrassing to the fans and it’s embarrassing to one another,” Philadelphia winger Scott Hartnell said at the time. “We let another two points slip away.”
Pittsburgh hasn’t stopped rolling, winning its next eight - four of which saw Dan Bylsma’s team tied or trailing after 40 minutes. Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis scored the lone goals of the third period Friday in a 4-2 road victory over the Islanders, which tied the Penguins with Chicago for the league’s longest winning streak of the season.
“We’re just finding ways to win right now,” Sutter told the league’s official website. “I think we want to keep playing the way we are. We don’t really want to change much. Obviously we think we can still get better at certain things. I think if we keep that mindset, hopefully we can keep doing well.”
One change Pittsburgh wouldn’t mind is getting Malkin and Letang back. Malkin has missed the last seven games with a shoulder injury, while Letang hasn’t dressed in the last two because of a lower-body injury.
Both participated in Friday’s morning skate but were held out, and they’re again considered game-time decisions Sunday.
While Pittsburgh has a comfortable lead atop the Atlantic Division and a slim cushion for the Eastern Conference’s top spot, the Flyers (13-16-1) are toiling in 13th place. They’re only five points out of playoff position, but have lost all four road games this month - dropping to 4-12-0 away from home with Monday’s 4-2 defeat in Tampa.
Philadelphia has been off since then, a five-day break that coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too thrilled about.
“Obviously, you would rather be playing games and trying to make a difference in the standings,” Laviolette said, “but there’s nothing we can do about that.”
What the Flyers can do is improve their play in the third period. They’ve been outscored 33-20 in the final 20 minutes after giving up two to the Lightning, a troubling margin considering the Penguins have outscored their opponents 43-23 in the third.
“I don’t know what it is,” winger Max Talbot said. “If we knew, we would fix it.”
The Flyers and Penguins scored three third-period goals apiece in this season’s first meeting at Consol Energy Center, a wild 6-5 Philadelphia victory as Jakub Voracek scored the game-winner with 1:31 left - 32 seconds after Pittsburgh tied it.
“You know about these games, you’re probably going to see something a little head-shaking at some point in time,” Bylsma said after the Penguins’ victory earlier this month.
Voracek has five goals in the last two meetings.