BRUINS (40-24-3) at PENGUINS (41-21-5)
TV: NBC (HD), TSN (HD)
LAST 10: Boston 5-4-1; Pittsburgh 9-1-0
This is the third of four meetings this season; the visiting team has prevailed in each of the first two. In the last one, Pittsburgh edged Boston 2-1 on Feb. 4 behind 28 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury.
It'll be a postseason atmosphere on Sunday at Consol Energy Center, as the fourth-place Pens welcome the Northeast Division-leading Bruins. Pittsburgh is ahead of Boston on points - 87 to 83 - and the Penguins will look to continue their eight-game winning streak. The Bruins finish a weekend back-to-back seeking to erase the memory of Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Capitals.
Earlier in the week, it looked as though Boston had finally righted its rocky ship. Consecutive wins over Toronto and Buffalo were the first back-to-back victories for the Bruins since Jan. 10-12, and the B's erased 1-0 deficits to win both. But the Bruins trailed 2-1 after one period and 4-2 after two at home against Washington on Saturday afternoon -- and despite a strong third period, couldn't overcome the two-goal deficit, ending up with a 4-3 loss. Milan Lucic
, Brad Marchand
and Johnny Boychuk
scored, while Tim Thomas
made 26 saves in his eighth straight start.
Center Patrice Bergeron
insisted his team couldn't continue to sleepwalk through the puck drop.
"Obviously we came out flat and they got the lead," Bergeron said. "We're not going to win too many games if we're battling back all game."
Call it the Crosby Effect, but it seems that all the Penguins are playing up a level with the prospect of their star returning to the lineup in near future. Pittsburgh has won eight straight to move within four points of the conference-leading Rangers. But those wins haven't come easy, and the last three have been decided by a single goal. Against Florida on Friday, the Penguins trailed 1-0 after two periods. But Steve Sullivan scored his 14th of the season 2:56 into the final period to force overtime, and James Neal and Evgeni Malkin both converted shootout tries to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 victory.
Not the prettiest victory, but the two points count anyway.
"I don't think we're anywhere near our best but we found a way to stick around and tie the game and win in a shootout," Sullivan said.
Lucic is carrying a six-game points streak (two goals, five assists) into Sunday's encounter. ... Sullivan has 11 points in his last eight games.
Injury Report: Andrew Ference
(lower body), Daniel Paille
(left arm) and Benoit Pouliot
(lower body) all missed Saturday's game for Boston, while Marchand played despite a shoulder injury. Tuukka Rask
(lower body) and Rich Peverley
(sprained right MCL) will miss 4-6 weeks. Nathan Horton
is on injured reserve with a concussion. … Deryk Engelland (lower body) and Dustin Jeffrey (illness) are questionable for the Penguins. Kris Letang (concussion-like symptoms), Brent Johnson (lower body) and Crosby (concussion/soft tissue damage in neck) are on IR. Crosby announced Saturday that he wouldn't play Sunday but might be back by later in the week.
The Penguins have been getting solid play from their special teams -- they lead the League in penalty-kill percentage (89.3) and are seventh in power-play conversion (19.6 percent). … Pittsburgh is 5-0 in shootouts at home.
The inconsistency that has plagued the Bruins since mid-January continues to puzzle Boychuk.
"I can't really put a finger on it," he said. "You just got to be ready. They can score two goals in the first 10 minutes, it's not really acceptable especially when we talk before the game that we want a good start. That's not the start we wanted, as soon as we called the timeout it was like night and day. ... We have to play the way we did in the third period, the whole 60 minutes, and if we do that there shouldn't be any problems."