GAME: Florida Panthers (20-25-12-3) at Pittsburgh Penguins (11-40-5-4).
TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
More than a month has passed since the Pittsburgh Penguins won. Their last
victory at home is an even more distant memory.
The woeful Penguins will try to end a 16-game losing streak when they host
the Florida Panthers.
The longest losing streak in Penguins' history continued with a 4-3 loss to
the New York Islanders on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead late in the second period, but New York's Mariusz
Czerkawski forged a 2-2 tie with his second goal of the game with 12 seconds
left in the second.
On Czerkawski's first goal that opened the scoring late in the first, his
shot hit the left post, bounced off Penguins goalie Andy Chiodo's backside, and
"It's just the story of the year for this team," Pittsburgh's Rob Scuderi
said. "Everyone was working so hard and playing so well. Just a stupid bounce
like that at the end of a period really crushes a team's confidence."
Roman Hamrlik and Kenny Jonsson scored third-period goals for the Islanders
against Chiodo, who made 30 saves in his NHL debut.
"I had some butterflies, but after the first few shifts, they disappeared
and I was able to concentrate on my game," Chiodo said. "Our team battled
hard tonight, and the defense did a great job letting me see the shots."
Pittsburgh fell to 0-15-0-1 since a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Jan. 12.
Since the Penguins lost in overtime Saturday at St. Louis, their losing streak
officially ended at 13 games, meaning the NHL record of 17 consecutive losses
held by the 1974-75 Capitals and the 1992-93 Sharks isn't in danger.
The Penguins already have set one NHL record with 12 straight defeats at
home. Their last victory at Mellon Arena was a 1-0 win over Chicago on Dec. 29.
Pittsburgh finally got a strong performance from its goalie Wednesday, but
continued to struggle on the penalty kill. The Penguins have allowed 13
power-play goals in 29 short-handed situations over the last five games.
Florida is hoping to make a late-season push for the playoffs, but must pass
ninth-place Buffalo before it can catch eighth-place Montreal.
The Panthers needed a brilliant performance from Roberto Luongo and a
third-period goal by Marcus Nilsson to record a 1-1 tie at Buffalo on
Luongo stopped 41 shots, including 31 in a row over the final two periods
and overtime, as Florida moved to 0-2-1 following a season-best three-game win
Luongo challenged his banged-up team, which is missing five regulars,
including Valeri Bure and Viktor Kozlov - two of the team's top forwards.
"If we want to make the playoffs, everybody in this locker room has got to
step it up, or else we've got no hope," Luongo said.
Florida has won eight straight against Pittsburgh.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 18): Panthers - 55 points, 2nd place, 17 PB,
Southeast Division. Penguins - 31 points, 5th place, 47 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Olli Jokinen, 18 goals; Bure, 21 assists and 38
points; Darcy Hordichuk, 114 PIM. Penguins - Ryan Malone, 17 goals; Dick
Tarnstrom, 23 assists and 34 points; Kelly Buchberger, 109 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 18): Panthers - Power play: 16.6 percent (36 for
217), 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (216 for 256), 17th. Penguins
- Power play: 14.9 percent (42 for 281), 21st. Penalty killing: 75.7 percent
(199 for 263), 30th.
GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (17-25-11, 3 SO, 2.37 GAA); Steve Shields
(3-3-1, 3.38). Penguins - Jean-Sebastien Aubin (2-7-0, 3.07); Chiodo (0-1-0,
SEASON SERIES: Panthers, 3-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 12; Panthers, 5-1. At Sunrise, Fla., Niklas Hagman ended
a 30-game drought with two goals and Luongo stopped 34 shots.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 8-16-6-1 on the road; Penguins - 7-19-3-0 at