Few wins were expected from the very inexperienced Pittsburgh Penguins this season.
They certainly won't be expected to beat the league's most talented team -- and arguably its best -- when the Colorado Avalanche conclude a four-game trip at Mellon Arena.
Although the Penguins have surprising wins this month over New Jersey and Philadelphia, they are clearly the NHL's worst team with a league-low 30 points. While both of those victories came on the road, Pittsburgh has been particularly bad at home, getting outscored 29-3 during a six-game losing streak at Mellon.
The Penguins nearly rallied from a three-goal deficit before losing their fifth straight overall Thursday, 6-5 at Ottawa.
"We battled hard and what you saw tonight is the way we play," Penguins coach Ed Olczyk said. "We put our necks on the line and we play with a lot of moxie."
Pittsburgh, which has allowed a league-high 178 goals, has three wins in its last 19 games (3-14-1-1).
Thursday was a disappointing night for Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed six goals on 23 shots before he was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Aubin for the third period. In two games following his stint with the Canadian national junior team, Fleury has surrendered 10 goals on 48 shots.
"It's not easy," Fleury said. "Every game we play is to win and when you have a hard time winning, it's not fun. But I'll try to keep going and win one one day."
Colorado has been on a tear this month, losing one game in regulation (9-1-1-1) to move into a tie with Detroit for the league's best record with 64 points.
After scoring 11 goals in road wins over Tampa Bay and Florida, the Avalanche settled for a 1-1 tie against Atlanta on Thursday.
David Aebischer stopped 20 shots and Brad Larsen scored in the second period for the Avalanche, which will be represented at next month's All-Star Game by captain Joe Sakic, left wing Alex Tanguay and defenseman Rob Blake.
Right wing Milan Hejduk, fourth in the NHL with 24 goals, and Aebischer, tied for the league lead with 21 wins, were left off the team.
"It was never one of my goals, but it would have been nice to make it," Aebischer said. "I'll get three days off, that's a good thing, too."
Colorado's Peter Forsberg, last season's Hart Trophy winner, skated for five minutes Thursday, but missed his fourth straight game with a strained groin.
Colorado is 6-0-1 against Pittsburgh since a 3-2 loss on Feb. 25, 1999.