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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, December 27 (All times Eastern)
Washington Capitals (17-11-6) at Pittsburgh Penguins (22-7-5), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins hope to avoid their first three- game slide of the season. The club's recent success against the Washington Capitals could work in its favor.
After suffering consecutive losses prior to the Christmas break, the Penguins are hoping to bounce back Saturday at home when they aim for a ninth consecutive victory against the Capitals.
Pittsburgh's two recent setbacks both came in the Sunshine State. The Pens dropped the back end of a home-and-home against Florida on Monday, losing 4-3 in a shootout before falling in regulation by the same score the next night in Tampa.
The Pens haven't lost three in a row since an 0-3 stretch from March 23-27 of last season.
Mike Johnston's club made a valiant effort to earn a point from Tuesday's contest, but came up short in the end.
Tyler Johnson completed a hat trick at the 2:37 mark of the second period to give the Lightning a 4-0 lead, but Tampa would have to hold on for the win as Pittsburgh scored once in the second and twice more in the third.
The Penguins' third goal made it a 4-3 game with 1:31 left in regulation, but Pittsburgh was unable to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for the equalizer.
Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang scored for the Penguins.
"We just made some big mistakes," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. "Sometimes you make mistakes in games and you get away with them and it felt like every one we made (tonight) ended up in the net."
Jeff Zatkoff took the loss in relief, having allowed the game-deciding goal on 17 shots. Marc-Andre Fleury got the start but was yanked after yielding three goals on 10 shots in nearly 21 minutes of action.
Fleury is expected to start again tonight. He owns a career mark of 16-7-2 and a 2.41 goals against average in 26 games against the Caps.
Pittsburgh continues to be short-handed due to injury and illness. Forwards Beau Bennett, Blake Comeau, Pascal Dupuis and Zach Sill, and defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin and Olli Maatta are all out with injury. Also, the Penguins sent forwards Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie along with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss back to Pittsburgh to be tested for the mumps.
Washington lost its final test before the Christmas break, dropping a 4-2 decision to the New York Rangers at the start of a three-game road trip. The Capitals are 10-6-2 as the visiting team this season, but have lost in their last five trips to the Steel City, where Washington hasn't tasted victory since Oct. 13, 2011.
The Caps' last win of any kind against the Penguins was a 1-0 home win on Jan. 11, 2012.
Washington had a three-game winning streak halted on Tuesday after allowing New York's Rick Nash to post a hat trick. The Capitals, however, would make a game of it late before falling in regulation.
Nash's second goal of the game made put New York ahead 3-0 at 5:12 of the third period, but Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied 41 seconds later for Washington. Alex Ovechkin's power-play goal cut the deficit to 3-2 with 9:02 left in the third. The score would stay that way until Nash completed the hat trick with a power-play tally of his own with 3:48 remaining.
Braden Holtby turned aside 23 shots in the loss, the Capitals' first loss in regulation since Dec. 2 against Vancouver. Washington entered Tuesday's matchup with a 7-0-2 mark in its previous nine games.
Holtby is expected to start tonight for the Caps despite posting an 0-4-0 record and 4.38 GAA in four career outings against the Pens.
Washington will complete its road trip Monday against the New York Islanders.
The Pens, who play five of their next six at home, are 13-4-1 at Consol Energy Center this season.
12/27 10:54:19 ET