The Pittsburgh Penguins completed their longest road trip of the season on Monday night, and as they prepare to play their first game on home ice since January 5, the club returns to Pittsburgh with as much momentum as it left with.
That game on January 5, a 5-3 comeback victory over the St. Louis Blues, pushed the Penguins’ winning streak to nine games. The streak would end up reaching ten games in the first of six matchups away from home, before being snapped in Dallas, but Pittsburgh was able to bounce back quickly, ending the six-game road trip with a 4-2 record.
The trip was capped off with an overtime victory against the San Jose Sharks over the weekend and a win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday that saw the Penguins erase an early 3-0 deficit to win the contest, 5-3.
While the wins alone are very encouraging for a Pittsburgh team that has now won 13 of its last 15 games, the fact that the Penguins are getting healthier by the game is perhaps the biggest win of the venture out west.
A six-game road trip did not slow down the Penguins.
Forward Evgeni Malkin made his season debut for the Pens last Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, and he wasted no time in making his impact felt. The Penguins’ alternate captain recorded his first goal of the season in the early stages of the second period, before getting his stick on another goal later in the frame.
Geno added an assist to give him a three-point effort in his first game back, and he now has four points (two goals and two assists) in four games on the season. He’ll make his first appearance in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Similarly in Vegas, the Penguins welcomed back forwards Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker. Rust did not show up on the scoresheet, but his presence reunited the lethal top line for Pittsburgh, which ended up tallying two goals. Zucker, however, was able to net two goals on his own in the victory.
If health is the biggest win of the last two weeks for the Pens, then their position in the standings is a close second. With this hot stretch for Pittsburgh, combined with some recent struggles by the Washington Capitals, the Penguins have vaulted into a top-three position in the Metropolitan Division.
At 23-10-5, Pittsburgh is only three points out of first place in the division, and the team enters Tuesday’s action in seventh place in the NHL standings, only six points behind the league’s top teams.
If any of the Penguins’ Eastern Conference rivals had hoped that a two-week stint on the road would slow the Pens, they’ll be massively disappointed. Pittsburgh will look to keep the wins coming as they return to the friendly confines of PPG Paints Arena.