The Pittsburgh Penguins are accumulating points at a staggering rate, but haven't been completely satisfied with how they're playing.
After giving away another late lead, the surging Penguins look to tighten up their play when they visit the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
Pittsburgh (11-8-2) endured a disappointing 2-5-1 stretch from Oct. 23-Nov. 10, but has since gone 4-0-1 to earn nine of a possible 10 points. The Penguins have tallied four goals or more three times in the last five contests and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is playing much better after a difficult start.
Pittsburgh still feels it can improve, as it has struggled to protect leads in two of its last three games.
In Friday's 5-4 shootout win over Carolina, the Penguins led 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3, but the Hurricanes answered each time. The game went to overtime after Carolina tied the score with 52 seconds left in the third.
"A few more mistakes than usual, but it's a long season and you've got to worry about playing well," said Sidney Crosby, who had a goal, three assists and the shootout winner. "If you do, the points will come, but it's always nice to have a big night."
Crosby's been having a lot of them lately with eight goals and 10 assists during an eight-game point streak.
But Friday's late collapse was reminiscent of last Monday, when the Penguins suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers after leading 2-1 with 90 seconds remaining.
"It was tough to let them back in the game again, like we did with the Rangers," said Fleury, who is 4-0-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average in his last five games after going 1-6-0 with a 3.54 GAA in his first eight and briefly losing the starting job. "We definitely don't want that to happen too often, but in the end we got two points and we got the win."
Late lead changes were common in Pittsburgh's series with the Panthers last season. The Penguins went 3-1-0 against Florida with all three victories determined in either overtime or a shootout. Pittsburgh rallied from two-goal third-period deficits in two of those wins, and surrendered a one-goal third-period lead in the other victory.
Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each had overtime goals against the Panthers a season ago, and Crosby finished the season series with four goals and an assist.
Fleury split his two starts against the Panthers in 2009-10, and is 4-6-0 in 10 career starts against them. His 3.51 lifetime GAA against Florida is his second-worst against any team he has faced at least five times.
The Panthers (9-9-0) return home, where they are 5-2-0, after defeating the New York Islanders 4-1 on Saturday. Mike Santorelli scored two of Florida's four second-period goals to give him four goals in the last five games.
"I like the way he plays," Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. "I'm comfortable when he's on the ice."
DeBoer likely also feels comfortable with Tomas Vokoun in goal.
Vokoun has been under heavy pressure, facing at least 39 shots in each of his last three games, but he has been up to the challenge, stopping 113 of 119 shots to win two of three. He is 4-1-0 with a 1.60 GAA in his last five games and posted a 2.41 GAA while starting all four games against the Penguins last season.
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