David Perron and Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the San Jose Sharks 3-2.
With the win, the Penguins reclaim the second seed in the Metropolitan Division as they hold the tiebreaker on the New York Islanders.
Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, but the Sharks, who are trying to remain in the playoff hunt battled back to tie it 2-2.
Ben Smith and Logan Couture scored second period goals to even things up.
San Jose was unable to solve Marc-Andre Fleury in the shootout.
Fleury made 30 saves to improve to 33-17-8 on the season.
Alex Stalock stopped 31 shots in the loss.
San Jose is six points back of the Calgary Flames for the third seed in the Pacific Division and seven back of the Winnipeg Jets in the wild card race.
With his assist on Kunitz’s goal, Crosby now has a league leading 79 points.
There are two things that seem to define today: an unusual amount of afternoon games and a slew of returning stars.
Add Pavel Datsyuk to that list, as he’s back in action for the Detroit Red Wings as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Datsyuk had been sidelined since March 15 with a lower-body injury.
Things have been shaky for the Red Wings lately (especially in net), so getting a two-way star like Datsyuk to return is a big deal. He’s been his usual dominant self when healthy this season, managing 23 goals and 58 points in 57 games played.
Other star returns
Henrik Lundqvist is back for the Rangers
The Penguins regain Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist
The Eastern Conference’s strongest teams just seem to be getting stronger on Saturday.
Just moments after it was revealed that Henrik Lundqvist will return for the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed that Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist are back in the lineup against the Arizona Coyotes today.
For all the worries about the Penguins’ shaky play lately, plenty have countered that Pittsburgh has been rocked by another season full of injury challenges. Getting two key forwards back – Hornqvist has shown that he can be a huge contributor, too – should provide a little more clarity regarding the Penguins’ position among the East’s power brokers.
Of course, it might take one or both of these scorers some time to get healthy and up to speed. The good news is that the Penguins have two weeks to gear up for the postseason, so the hope is that they’ll shake off any rust by then.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe provided his guess as far as how Pittsburgh’s lines might look against the Coyotes:
Here’s an update from the Penguins’ infirmary heading into tonight’s big tilt at home against St. Louis:
— Christian Ehrhoff is expected to draw back into the lineup for just the 17th time since the calendar turned to 2015. Ehrhoff, who missed all but one game in February with a concussion, returned to the Pittsburgh lineup for a brief four-game spell this month (Mar. 14-19), but then missed Saturday’s win over Arizona with an undisclosed ailment.
All told, Ehrhoff has only played 48 of Pittsburgh’s 72 games this season, but does have three goals and 14 points in those 48 games.
— Evgeni Malkin (who last played on Mar. 14 versus Boston) and Patric Hornqvist (last game Mar. 15 versus Detroit) took today’s morning skate, but won’t draw back in until this weekend at the earliest. The Pens host Arizona and San Jose on Saturday and Sunday.
Without Malkin and Hornqvist in the lineup, Pittsburgh has gone 1-2-0 and scored just four goals, three of which came in Saturday’s victory over the Coyotes.
— In other news, the Pens recalled Derrick Pouliot from AHL Wilkes-Barre and sent veteran forward Andrew Ebbett back down. This means Pittsburgh is currently carrying seven d-men and 11 forwards.
The Pens have lost the services of one of their most in-form players for an upcoming road swing through New Jersey, Dallas and Arizona.
Patric Hornqvist, who has four goals and seven points in his last eight games, will miss the next week of action with an undisclosed injury suffered during Sunday’s 5-1 loss to Detroit.
While a big loss, Hornqvist’s timetable of just a week is a good development, considering the ominous report Pens head coach Mike Johnston gave following Sunday’s loss.
“[Hornqvist] left with an injury,” Johnston said. “We’ll find out [Monday]. It looked bad when he came off the ice. I’ll get a report from the trainers.”
Pittsburgh faces a stiff test with Hornqvist out of the lineup. He currently sits tied for second on the team in goals (23) with Sidney Crosby, and the Pens aren’t scoring a ton lately — they’ve scored just one goal or fewer in four of their last five games, and would be in even worse shape had it not been for a six-goal outburst in a win over Edmonton last Thursday.
Update: Evgeni Malkin, who was hurt over the weekend, will be out 7-14 days.