The Pittsburgh Penguins are approaching their own 20-year-old record National Hockey League win streak, having won 13 in a row entering yesterday’s home game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Pittsburgh set the all-time NHL record for consecutive victories with 17 in a row in the 1992-1993 season, when they were the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions and led by Canadian star Mario Lemieux and Czech wing Jaromir Jagr.
This year’s team is sparked by Canadian star Sidney Crosby, who leads the league with 39 assists, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery, who leads the NHL with 18 victories.
“There are times we haven’t played our best, but our focus has been on being strong defensively,” Crosby said. “To win that many, your goaltenders have to steal a game or two over that time period.”
Of their 13 triumphs in a row, the Penguins have won nine times by a single goal.
“You’re building as a team,” Penguins wing Chris Kunitz said. “We’re trying to get better every night.”
After the visit by the Jets (18-14-2), Pittsburgh will host the New York Islanders (15-15-3) tomorrow and Buffalo (13-16-4) on Tuesday.
If they avoid defeat for another week, the Penguins could attempt to match the record on Wednesday at the New York Rangers and break the mark with an 18th win in a row two nights later at home against the same Rangers (16-13-3).
The Penguins have not lost since a 4-1 drubbing at Carolina on Feb. 28. They would visit Carolina again on April 9 in their first game after the one in which they could break their own record win streak.
Pittsburgh own the best record in the Eastern Conference at 26-8-0, seven points ahead of Montreal and Boston.
Nine of Pittsburgh’s triumphs in the streak have come without reigning NHL Most Valuable Player Evgeni Malkin, a Russian star who remains sidelined with a shoulder injury.
“Everyone has bought into what we’re doing,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “It starts right from Sid and guys who are used to getting a lot of points. They are putting team goals way ahead of individual goals. I think we realize what our ultimate goal is here, and everyone has bought into that.”
The Penguins’ 13 victories this month established a new club record for triumphs in a month, partly thanks to a condensed schedule for this season due to the financial dispute between players and club owners that delayed the start of the campaign.
NHL history was already made this season by the Chicago Blackhawks, who had the best start of any team in NHL history with 21 triumphs and three over-time losses, the most consecutive games with standings points to begin a campaign.