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Streaking Sharks, Penguins do battle in Pittsburgh
(SportsNetwork.com) - There are no hotter teams in the NHL right now than the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The two streaking clubs put their respective season high-tying win streaks on the line Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference with 39 points, having won four straight while going 7-1-1 in their last nine, and it helps that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are both red-hot as well.
Crosby leads the NHL with 38 points, while Malkin has logged four goals and 15 assists over a nine-game point streak. Malkin is second to only Crosby in points with 37 and tops the league with 30 assists.
However, Malkin won't play tonight after leaving morning skate early with a lower-body injury that has him day-to-day.
San Jose's Joe Thornton is second in the NHL with 25 assists, having notched three goals and eight points over a six-game point streak. The Sharks have won all six of those contests for their longest winning run since beginning the season 6-0-0.
The Sharks are second in the West with 43 points, one point behind the Chicago Blackhawks.
Thornton has 17 points over his previous 14 games and had a goal in Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. His power-play tally gave the Sharks a 2-0 edge in the first period, but the Leafs scored the next two goals to tie the game.
Brad Stuart, though, scored with four minutes to play in the second period to put the Sharks back on top and Logan Couture finally sealed the outcome with an empty-net tally.
Mike Brown also scored and Antti Niemi made 28 saves as the Sharks won for the ninth time in 10 games.
"I thought the game began really well for us, then we let them get back into it," said San Jose head coach Todd McLellan. "We were outplayed there for a while and it was kind of embarrassing."
San Jose won the opener of a four-game road trip and is 9-2-3 as the visiting club this season. It has not won seven in a row since March 25-April 5 of last season.
The Penguins are looking to post their longest win streak since a seven-game run from April 5-22 and are coming off a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Crosby scored twice, including the game-winner with 1:16 to play in overtime as he stripped John Tavares of the puck, split two defenders and then chipped the puck home for his 15th goal of the season.
"It was a highlight-reel goal and you'll see it again, I'm sure," said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. "The work ethic, backcheck battle, wins the puck, it didn't look like good odds. He cut thru the 'D' and that puck found a way in."
James Neal had a goal and Malkin notched a pair of assists for the Penguins, who got 31 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Pens have lost three straight and eight of their past nine versus the Sharks, with Fleury just 1-2-2 against them in five meetings with a 2.84 goals against average.
San Jose has won five of its last seven in Pittsburgh and will also visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
That could lead to both Niemi and backup Alex Stalock getting starts over the next two nights. Niemi is 2-0-1 with a 2.38 GAA in his career versus the Penguins, while Stalock has never faced them.
12/05 12:51:02 ET
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