By: Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)
Last Game for the Penguins: Tuesday, a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. The Islanders scored twice three minutes apart in the first period. The Penguins did not answer until the end of the second period when James Neal got his ninth goal of the year on the power play. Sidney Crosby tied the game at 8:00 of the third period, also on the power play. In overtime, Crosby stripped Thomas Vanek of the puck at the blue line and skated through three Islanders to beat Anders Nilsson for the win. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 23 shots while Nilsson faced 34.
Last Game for the Sharks: Tuesday, a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. San Jose got goals from Mike Brown and Joe Thornton in the first period. Mason Raymond and Phil Kessel tied things up for the Leafs in the second period before Brad Stuart scored to give the Sharks a lead they would not relinquish. Logan Couture sealed the win with an empty-net goal at 18:36 of the third period. Antti Niemi faced 30 shots for the Sharks while James Reimer faced 40 for the Leafs.
Last Time These Two Teams Met: November 3, 2011. The Sharks defeated the Penguins 4-3 in a shootout. Deryk Engelland and Evgeni Malkin both scored within the first two minutes. The Sharks did not answer until 2:37 of the second period with a goal from Patrick Marleau. Malkin got his second goal of the game at 9:37 to give the Penguins a two-goal lead. The Sharks scored twice more in the third period to force overtime. The game went to a shootout where Thomas Griess stopped all Penguin attempts. Ryan Clowe scored the game-winner. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 37 shots for the Penguins. Antti Niemi faced six shots before being pulled for Griess, who saw 30 Penguin shots.
Last 10 Games for the Penguins: 7-2-1.
Last 10 Games for the Sharks: 9-1.
Story of the Game: The Sharks come into Pittsburgh with a six-game winning streak. This may be the biggest test the Penguins have faced, but it is coming at a pretty good time for them. After having a rough November, the Penguins ended the month with a big come-from-behind win against the Maple Leafs and two dominating wins against the Lightning and Panthers. Most importantly, the Penguins seem to be playing with confidence. In the past five games this has not looked like a team that loses all of its fight when not scoring first or when trailing by two goals. They had to fight back from a two-goal deficit in three of their last five games, forcing overtime in all three and winning twice.
Much of the Penguins’ success is due to the play of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. In that five-game span, Crosby has eight points (3g-5a) while Malkin has 11 points (3g-8a). They currently occupy the top two spots in the NHL scoring race, sitting five points ahead of third-leading scorers Patrick Kane, Ryan Getzlaf, and John Tavares. While the season is still very young, if it ended today they would be the first Penguins to finish first and second in scoring since 1996 when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr scored 161 and 149 points, respectively. Isn’t Penguin hockey fun to watch when Crosby and Malkin are healthy and dominating?
Penguins All-Time Record Against the Sharks: 11-12-3-3.
Player to Watch on the Penguins: Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist in his last game versus the Sharks.
Player to Watch on the Sharks: Dan Boyle has four points in his last three games versus the Penguins.