The Pittsburgh Penguins currently hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and can solidify their grip on the last playoff berth with a win at the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
The Penguins (36-27-10, 82 points) have won two of their last three games following a four-game slide. They collected a valuable 4-3 victory over Washington on Saturday. Pittsburgh gave away a three-goal advantage in the third period but Evgeni Malkin rescued his team on an unassisted goal with 1:20 remaining.
"Lots of drama in the third period," Malkin said. "My goal, it's like, just try to do my best. Last game (a 3-2 loss to Dallas), I try 2-on-1, I shoot low blocker and I can't score. But finally, it gives me confidence, for sure. It's a huge goal for me, and two points for the team."
Head coach Mike Sullivan seemed more relieved than happy afterward.
"Well, it was an emotionally charged game. There were moments in the game I thought were really good, there were moments in the game, not so much," Sullivan said. "I think the most important thing is, especially at this time of year, that we walked away with two points.
"So, it's not the cleanest game that we've played as of late. I think we played a lot of good hockey as a team as of late, and haven't got rewarded. It's funny how the game works."
Ryan Poehling, Chad Ruhwedel and Jake Guentzel were the other goal-scorers for the Penguins. For Ruhwedel, it was his first of the season.
Poehling's goal was his sixth in 44 games. He missed a chunk of time with an upper-body injury and the goal was his first since he returned to action six games ago.
"I think his timing, his conditioning, all of those things are starting to really round into form," Sullivan said. "He's missed a lot of hockey, so he's another one of those guys that's moving on a train going a hundred miles an hour.
"But I think he's really starting to bring his game to another level at the most important time of year."
The Red Wings (31-32-9, 71 points) have won just three of their last 15 games. They were blanked by Philadelphia 3-0 on Saturday afternoon.
Detroit didn't lack for chances, as it squandered seven power-play opportunities.
"Our inability to execute on the power play was the difference," coach Derek Lalonde said. "You get that many looks and not to generate a goal, that was the difference."
The Red Wings dealt three forwards at the trade deadline in order to accumulate more future assets. They're also dealing with some injuries up front, most notably to Michael Rasmussen and Robby Fabbri.
A team already lacking in firepower now has an even thinner margin for error.
"We can execute a little bit more but it's just going to be a challenge, that's the reality," Lalonde said. "We want to hang in there with these tight games, but the reality is, and the lineup we're currently filling isn't getting us five or six goals a game or out-scoring mistakes. We have to eliminate our mistakes."
In the first meeting with the Penguins, Jake Walman scored in overtime as Detroit won in Pittsburgh 5-4 on Dec. 28.
--Field Level Media