After ending their longest losing streak of the season against the stiffest of competition, the San Jose Sharks now look to continue their dominance of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Few teams have been able to contain San Jose (37-7-7) during its ascent to the top of the Western Conference, but the Sharks entered their latest contest mired in a three-game losing streak (0-1-2) that was their longest skid since a five-game slide from Feb. 12-20, 2008.
San Jose started slowly against league-leading Boston on Tuesday, trailing 2-1 after one period. But captain Patrick Marleau led the Sharks' comeback, contributing a goal and two assists during a four-goal third period in a 5-2 victory.
"We play fast, we play big," said All-Star Joe Thornton, who scored for the 12th time and increased his team-leading point total to 58. "They came out really strong and we didn't have too many answers. I think the second half of the game, the ice kind of tilted."
San Jose has split the first two contests on a season-high five-game road trip, and now seeks its fifth win in its last six visits to Pittsburgh (26-24-5).
Beating Eastern opponents has become a habit for the Sharks, who are 10-1-1 versus teams from the opposite conference this season. That mastery has extended to their meetings with the Penguins as San Jose is 11-1-0 with a tie in the last 13 matchups, outscoring Pittsburgh 42-24.
The Sharks have won the last five overall meetings, most recently 2-1 at home on Oct. 28, when they held the Penguins to a season-low 11 shots.
San Jose has limited its opponents' scoring chances all season, ranking second in the league with 121 goals allowed. Pittsburgh expects another defensive challenge in this matchup, despite averaging 2.98 goals behind star forwards Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby - the NHL's top two scorers.
"That's a type of team that doesn't give you a lot of chances," Penguins coach Michel Therrien told his team's official Web site. "It's crucial to get the lead. ... It's important to get a good start."
Therrien's club - three points out of the East's eighth and final playoff spot - was unable to do that its last time out, losing 3-0 to Detroit on Sunday to drop to 2-1 on a four-game homestand.
Malkin - the league leader with 56 assists and 80 points - had his seven-game point streak snapped (six goals, five assists), while Crosby was held off the scoresheet for just the third time in 14 contests.
Marleau has five goals and five assists in 14 career games versus the Penguins, but Thornton has been even better in his 32 lifetime matchups.
Thornton has 14 goals and 43 points - tied for his most against any opponent - but had a 15-game series point streak (10 goals, 24 assists) snapped in the October contest.
Evgeni Nabokov has won seven of eight career games versus the Penguins. However, he started against Boston, meaning backup Brian Boucher - 9-1-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average in 12 starts this season - could be in net on Wednesday.
Boucher is 5-3-0 with a tie and a 3.18 GAA in 11 career games versus the Penguins, but hasn't faced them since Feb. 25, 2004 while with Phoenix.