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The New York Islanders cooled off Pittsburgh earlier this week, and in the process, likely delivered a wake-up call to the previously surging Penguins.
Trying to avoid consecutive losses for the first time in almost two months, the Penguins hope to avenge that defeat Thursday night on Long Island.
Pittsburgh (47-23-6) had won five straight against New York and 13 in a row at home in the series before the Islanders jumped out to an early two-goal lead en route to a 5-3 victory Tuesday.
Though the Penguins have gone 26-6-2 since a six-game skid and have not lost back-to-back contests since Feb. 5-7, they have dropped two of three to slip five points behind the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh certainly received a reality check against the Islanders (32-33-11).
"It's a little bit of a wake-up call," forward James Neal said. "For us, we just have to get back to doing the right things."
Neal had two goals Tuesday and Evgeni Malkin assisted on both to raise his NHL-leading point total to 99, but various defensive lapses played a part in Marc-Andre Fleury being pulled after giving up five goals on 18 shots through two periods. The Penguins, who allowed five total goals in their previous four games against the Islanders, fell despite outshooting New York 54-25.
That prompted coach Dan Bylsma to remind his team that nothing will be handed to them no matter how talented they are or how well they've been playing.
"I think you fall into a trap," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I think especially when you get away with it for a few games. It starts snowballing and you get on a roll and you think it's going to keep happening."
Though Fleury was shaken up after colliding with teammate Paul Martin, he expects to be fine as the Penguins look for a fourth consecutive win on Long Island.
Malkin has a goal and six assists in his last four games versus New York, with two of those assists coming in a 6-3 road win over the Islanders on Dec. 10. Neal, who had two goals in that contest, has five in his last four against New York.
Teammate Pascal Dupuis added an assist Tuesday to extend his point streak to 11 games. He has two goals and six assists against the Islanders in 2011-12.
Looking to match a season high with its third consecutive victory, New York will try to win back-to-back meetings with the Penguins in the same season for the first time since 2006-07. Frans Nielsen had two goals with one assist and Kyle Okposo added one of each Tuesday for New York, which has won four of five.
"We've been playing well lately but we knew this game and the next game is a going to be a good test to see where the team is standing and how good we are because Pittsburgh is a good hockey team," said Nielsen, who has scored four of his career-high 17 goals in the last five games.
Okposo is looking to match a career best with a goal in a fourth straight game.
Al Montoya could be back in the New York net after he stopped 21 of 22 shots while replacing Evgeni Nabokov (lower-body injury) for the third period Tuesday.
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