|Penguins hope to ride momentum against Islanders|
The Pittsburgh Penguins are hoping to hang on tight to what happened early in the third period in their game Tuesday. The New York Islanders are hoping to forget the early part of their most recent third period.
The two teams clash Thursday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh
Patric Hornqvist proclaimed that the Penguins (11-10-5) reached a turning point for the better Tuesday after he scored a natural hat trick in a span of 2:47 -- a club record for a hat trick -- in the third period of a 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Pittsburgh had taken a 3-0 lead in the first period but gave up three goals in the second. The win broke a two-game losing streak.
"I think our response (Tuesday) night is something that we need to (replicate) moving forward. I don't think we've done it in the past," Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese said Wednesday. "(It) was a great response from us. I think as a group we'll be able to bottle that up."
Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017 but has had trouble even remaining in a playoff spot this season. The team is not satisfied with its lack of consistency.
The Penguins are hoping Hornqvist provided the spark and the accurate prediction they needed.
"You have to be able to roll with the punches when you're not having success and find ways to work yourself out of it, and when you do have success you have to keep it in perspective in order to sustain it," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think we have a mature group. They've been on both sides of those circumstances. I think the most important thing -- and this is what we talked to the players about -- is just staying in the moment."
The Islanders (13-10-3) are looking down at the Penguins in the standings, but they, too, have been inconsistent. Since a five-game winning streak that ended in early November, they are 5-6-1.
That includes a 2-1 loss Tuesday against Winnipeg when New York took a 1-0 lead, then lost 3-1 when the Jets scored goals 22 seconds apart early in the third period.
The Islanders have been held to a single goal in three of their past five games.
"One goal doesn't do it in this league," center Mathew Barzal said. "We've got to find a way to get on the board, whether that's the power play or five-on-five. (The Jets are) the best team in the league, I'd say. For us to hang in there and push the pace, I thought, for most of it, it stinks not getting any points."
New York coach Barry Trotz agreed, to a point.
"You don't get paid to hang in," Trotz said. "You get paid to win."
It's unclear whether goaltender Robin Lehner will be available for the game Thursday. The Islanders recalled Christopher Gibson to back up Thomas Greiss against the Jets.
"He just tweaked a little something," Trotz said of Lehner. "We didn't put him on IR, there's no need for that. We hope he's good to go in the next day or so."
The Penguins, meanwhile, could be without top-line winger Dominik Simon. He left in the first period of the Colorado game. Sullivan said Simon has a lower-body injury and is day-to-day.