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Pens aim to avenge worst loss of season in home test vs. Sens

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to avenge their most lopsided loss of the season on Monday when they host the Ottawa Senators in an Eastern Conference clash at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Penguins and Senators met for the first of three scheduled encounters in 2013-14 on Dec. 23 in Ottawa, and the home team recorded a 5-0 rout. Along with a 5-1 road loss to the New York Rangers on Nov. 6 and a 5-1 setback against visiting Florida on Jan. 20, it marked the only time Pittsburgh was defeated by a margin of four or more goals this season.

Pittsburgh had won three straight in the regular-season series against the Sens before that December loss and Ottawa enters Monday having lost four of five in the Steel City. That doesn't include last season's playoff encounter in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which the top-seeded Pens won in five games.

The Penguins enter Monday leading the East with 78 points, but the talented club was dealt a regulation loss Saturday at Phoenix. Mike Smith stopped 23- of-24 shots to help the Coyotes register a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh in the desert.

Evgeni Malkin had the only goal of the game for the Penguins, who had won four of five entering the contest. Malkin passed Ron Francis for fifth place on Pittsburgh's all-time scoring list with the goal, which represented the Russian's 614th career point.

Marc-Andre Fleury gave up all three goals on 30 shots in the loss.

"I thought we played a real good game and their guy made some really strong saves," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby. "They played a pretty tight game and when you don't cash in on your chances you're not going to win."

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang missed his second straight game due to an illness and he is questionable for Monday. Fellow Pens blueliner Olli Maatta is also questionable after getting hit in the face with a puck on Saturday.

The Pens boast a 22-4-0 record on home ice this season and have won 15 of their last 16 games as the host.

Ottawa is also coming off a loss as it had a two-game win streak snapped in Saturday's 6-3 road setback against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators led 2-0 early in the second period, but the Maple Leafs scored six of the game's final seven goals to take the tilt in regulation. Toronto winger Phil Kessel capped his fifth career hat trick with the game-winning goal at 14:02 of the third period.

Chris Neil posted two goals and an assist while Colin Greening also had a goal and an assist for the Senators. Craig Anderson allowed five goals on 36 shots in the loss.

"I felt we played hard. We gave up some chances in the second, but I thought we settled it down there in the third and got back after them," said Neil. "I don't think it's a 6-3 hockey game, that's for sure. It was pretty close back and forth."

Ottawa fell to 12-10-5 as the visiting team this season after Saturday's setback. The Sens will close a three-game road trip when they visit St. Louis on Tuesday.

Erik Karlsson had a goal and two assists in December's blowout win over the Pens. The talented defenseman has 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists) in 13 career games versus Pittsburgh.

Anderson is 5-4-1 with a 2.24 goals against average in 12 career games against the Pens, while Fleury is 9-9-1 with a 3.41 GAA in this matchup.

02/03 11:28:13 ET