Goalie Peter Budaj is likely to start for the Los Angeles Kings after Jeff Zatkoff made 17 saves in a 4-1 win at the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. Budaj allowed four goals on 22 shots in a 6-3 loss at the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Budaj won five consecutive starts and allowed fewer than three goals in each from Nov. 17-26, but has allowed four goals in two of his past three starts. The Kings will play the third game of a nine-game road trip. Los Angeles has struggled away from Staples Center, going 5-8-1 on the road as opposed to 10-4-1 at home. After responding to its loss in Buffalo by winning in Detroit two nights later, coach Darryl Sutter said he didn’t see a change in his team’s approach. “People make this game too complicated,” Sutter said Thursday. “We play the same way pretty much every game. Against Buffalo, we didn’t get big saves when we needed them. [Thursday] we got big saves and big goals. That’s all it is.” The Kings did not hold a morning skate Friday.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will try for their eighth consecutive victory, but they’ll be without defenseman Kris Letang, who sustained a lower-body injury during a 4-3 overtime win against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. The injury is expected to keep Letang, who has played 26:04 per game this season, out for a couple of weeks, coach Mike Sullivan said Thursday. The Penguins recalled defenseman Derrick Pouliot from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Thursday and could insert him in the lineup to fill Letang’s role as a puck-moving offensive defenseman. Pouliot has played one NHL game this season, against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 20; he played 12:29 before sustaining a lower-body injury. “I’ll go out there and try not to do too much off the bat here,” Pouliot said. “Pick my spots, try to jump into the rush when I can, defend hard and help keep this ball rolling.” If Pouliot doesn’t dress, Steve Oleksy could play his second game this season. Oleksy played 11:06 against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 26. Either way, defenseman Justin Schultz should receive increased ice time with Letang sidelined. Schultz has five goals and 12 points in his past eight games after not scoring a goal in his first 22 games. Forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel did not participate in an optional morning skate Friday, so Pittsburgh’s plan to replace Letang on its top power-play unit remains unknown. Sullivan said elevating Schultz to the top unit is one of several options.
Crosby tied the game 3-3 with his NHL-leading 20th goal of the season at 5:08 of the third period. Kessel made the pass, and Crosby scored on a one-timer from between the circles.
“We definitely executed really well, especially late in the second with a quick one to get it close,” Crosby said. “We had some really good looks.”
Filppula gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at 3:38 of the second period when he beat Matt Murray with a wrist shot to the near post on a 2-on-1. Drouin made it 3-1 at 10:19 of the second on a partial breakaway.
“I thought we played well, it definitely [stinks] to lose that one,” Drouin said. “We were physically and mentally going and the bench was going and I hadn’t seen [that] in a while from our team’s wholesale jerseys, so it was a nice to see.”
Crosby made it 1-0 at 12:03 of the first period, and Drouin tied the game 1-1 with a power-play goal at 17:57.
Crosby left the game briefly in the first period when he was checked by Lightning defenseman Luke Witkowski and his head hit the boards where they meet the glass. Crosby said he had to go through the concussion protocol at the end of the first period.
“It was just kind of a stinger,” Crosby said. “My neck got jammed and that’s basically it.”
Crosby dove to get the rebound of defenseman Brian Dumoulin’s shot on goal and managed to get the puck past Vasilevskiy’s stick while falling down for NHL jerseys and the first goal of the game.
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Schultz took Pittsburgh’s third penalty in 6:57 when he was called for interference 7:30 into the second period. With the Senators scoring on each of their previous two opportunities to take a 4-2 lead, surrendering a third power-play goal could have made the lead insurmountable. Instead, Cullen scored his shorthanded goal that helped fuel Pittsburgh’s comeback.
“It was a bit of a [mess] in front of the net,” Murray said. “I don’t know. I’m pretty lucky to be honest. I think he panicked a little bit because he had the whole short side of the net.”
“It was more about maybe just trying to change the mindset of the 18 skaters in front of [Fleury]. Sometimes when you get in those situations, you make that type of a change and maybe you can provide a spark for the group.” — Penguins coach Mike Sullivan on pulling Fleury
“You could tell, really, from the first period that it was going to be one of these games and we couldn’t find a way to seal it up and not give them the space on china jerseys that they worked really hard for.”
Anderson returned from a leave of absence taken Nov. 30 to be with his wife, Nicholle, who began cancer treatment. … Malkin had a goal and two assists to extend his point streak to six games (two goals, nine assists).