for this game

Penguins eye first place in key clash with Flyers

Mar 29, 2011 - 3:24 PM
(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Penguins were five points behind the Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead when the teams met in Philadelphia less than a week ago. Tonight, however, the streaking Pens will have a chance to forge a tie for first place when they host the Flyers in a key divisional battle at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Flyers held a 97-92 edge in points when they hosted Pittsburgh on Thursday and the Penguins took a bite out of that lead with a 2-1 shootout victory at Wells Fargo Center. Pittsburgh enters tonight on a four-game winning streak, and with 98 points is just two points behind Philadelphia for the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

"Our goal since the beginning of the season has been to be on top," said Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. "We're not too far and we have a shot at it so that's good."

With Evgeni Malkin done for the year and Sidney Crosby still sidelined with a concussion, the Penguins have leaned heavily on Fleury and the goaltender has proved himself to be up to the task.

Fleury has started the last three games for Pittsburgh and has surrendered a total of two goals over that stretch. The veteran netminder also recently set a franchise record by going 150 minutes, 14 seconds without allowing a goal.

The shutout streak began after Philadelphia's Mike Richards scored against Fleury in the first period of Thursday's game. Fleury then blanked New Jersey on Saturday before the streak was snapped on a goal by Florida's Ryan Carter in the second period of Pittsburgh 2-1 shootout win over the visiting Panthers on Sunday.

Jocelyn Thibault held the Penguins previous shutout streak mark of 136:13.

The Pens also broke an NHL record recently by winning four straight games via the shootout. Alex Kovalev scored the winner in the most recent such victory when he scored in the second round against Florida on Sunday. After Kovalev's goal, Fleury stopped Niclas Bergfors and James Neal sealed the win when he buried a wrister.

Ben Lovejoy had the lone goal of regulation for the Penguins and Fleury finished the game with 37 saves.

Tonight marks the finale of a three-game homestand for Pittsburgh, which has won four of its last six in the Steel City and is 24-13-2 as the host this season.

Despite losing three out of five against the Flyers this season, Pittsburgh has won seven of the last 11 encounters overall between these intrastate rivals. However, Philadelphia has taken three of its last four in the Steel City and the Flyers are 2-0 at CONSOL Energy Center, which opened earlier this season.

The Flyers have managed just five wins over their last 14 games (5-5-4), but they had recorded points in nine straight games before dropping a home regulation loss to Boston on Sunday. Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal late in regulation to lift the Bruins to the 2-1 decision at Wells Fargo Center.

Kris Versteeg had the lone goal for the Flyers, while Brian Boucher stopped 34 shots in defeat.

Philadelphia is 24-9-4 as the road team this year and can set a club record for most away wins in a season tonight. The Flyers have won two straight and four of their last five as the guest.

Fleury is expected to start in net tonight for Pittsburgh. He is 20-9-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average in his career against Philly, but has a 1-3 mark and a 2.48 GAA versus the Flyers this season.

Philadelphia rookie Sergei Bobrovsky will likely get the start in net tonight. The 22-year-old Russian is 2-1-1 with a 2.21 GAA in his first four career games against Pittsburgh.

In addition to Crosby's absence, the Penguins are also expected to be without forwards Mark Letestu (upper body) and Mark Letestu (concussion symptoms) tonight.