PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mark Streit made an instant impact in his debut with Pittsburgh, beating Peter Budaj early in the third period to lift the Penguins to a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
Evgeni Malkin scored twice off assists from Phil Kessel and added an assist of his own in his 700th career game as Pittsburgh snapped a two-game losing streak. Justin Schultz had a goal and an assist and Tom Kuhnhackl put in an empty-netter for the Penguins as they swept the season series from the Lightning.
Matt Murray finished with 27 saves as Pittsburgh pulled back into a tie with Columbus for second place in the crowded Metropolitan Davison.
Adam Erne picked up his first NHL goal for Tampa Bay and Nikita Kucherov collected his 28th, but the Lightning lost precious ground in the scramble for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Budaj stopped 30 shots in his first start with the Lightning after coming over in a trade from Los Angeles.
Ten months after going a full seven games in the Eastern Conference finals, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay find themselves heading in opposite directions with five weeks to go in the regular season.
Pittsburgh is jockeying for position in the nearly claustrophobic fight with Columbus and the New York Rangers behind front-running Washington in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins invested heavily in their defense at the trade deadline, acquiring Streit, Mark Hainsey and Frank Corrado to shore up a blue line decimated by injuries.
The Lightning, meanwhile, are on the fringe of the playoff chase while missing stars Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan. Tampa Bay unloaded goaltender Ben Bishop and veteran forward Brian Boyle and even served as a go-between of sorts for the Penguins and the rival Flyers. The Lightning acquired Streit from Philadelphia on Wednesday morning for forward Valtteri Filppula and some draft picks, and then flipped Streit to Pittsburgh just hours later.
The Penguins need all the help they can get on the blue line with Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley out several weeks and Kris Letang battling an upper-body injury that’s forced him to miss a fourth straight game.
Streit certainly looked at home in his arrival. The 39-year-old played 19:31 and put the Penguins ahead to stay 2:38 into the third when he darted to the net and collected a pass from Sidney Crosby before beating Budaj for his sixth of the season to put Pittsburgh up 3-2.
Schultz doubled the lead when he put in his own rebound with 3:23 left before Kuhnhackl finished off the Lightning.
NOTES: Crosby’s two assists gave him 69 points on the season, second-most in the NHL. … Malkin has 17 goals in his last 15 games against Tampa Bay. Malkin is the seventh player to play in 700 games for the Penguins. … Tampa Bay scratched D Luke Witkowski. … The Penguins scratched F Carter Rowney and Ds Derrick Pouliot and Letang. … The Lightning went 1 for 3 on the power play. The Penguins were 2 for 3 with the man advantage.
Lightning: Travel to Buffalo on Saturday. Tampa Bay has won both meetings with the Sabres this season.
Penguins: Host Buffalo on Sunday. The Sabres beat Pittsburgh in overtime on Nov. 19.
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