The Pittsburgh Penguins and host Philadelphia Flyers, who meet Friday, have been writing different scripts lately.
The Penguins have come with storybook endings as they have run their winning streak to four games.
The Flyers have been more of a horror story; a losing streak that has reached eight games.
The Penguins’ past two games in particular have seemed to have some magical touches, specifically involving star center Evgeni Malkin.
Sunday at Chicago, in Malkin’s 1,000th career game, he got treated to the surprise of his young son, Nikita, coming into the locker room pregame to read the starting lineup, which included the elder Malkin.
Then Malkin had a goal and his star teammate and good friend Sidney Crosby got a late tiebreaking goal as Pittsburgh downed the Blackhawks 5-3.
Wednesday, after the Penguins held a pregame ceremony to honor Malkin for his milestone with the team back home, he scored the deciding goal in a shootout for a 2-1 win over Calgary.
“It was a huge and fitting finish,” Crosby said. “It was perfect. You wouldn’t want anyone else with the opportunity to win the game.
“We just want to continue that momentum. We’ve done some pretty good things. … Our game’s gotten better and better, and we’re giving up (fewer scoring chances) overall. It’s great to see, and I think that’s going to help us win hockey games.”
It might be hard for Malkin to carry the same level of emotion for too many more games.
“These last few days, I’m crying every day because the team (gave) me so much surprises,” Malkin said.
“The last two games are special for me, but it’s important to win, too.”
The Flyers have much different reasons for emotions running high these days.
Consider their most recent loss. On Wednesday at Washington, Philadelphia had a couple one-goal leads and never trailed, yet fell in overtime 3-2 on Alex Ovechkin’s goal.
The Flyers are 0-5-3 on their skid.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Philadelphia forward Morgan Frost said. “We’ve got to learn how to close every game. … It’s tough.”
Game after game, the Flyers keep digging holes.
“At this point, we’re finding ways to lose,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. “We’ve got to stop that.”
Philadelphia coach John Tortorella said it’s a matter of both execution and mentality.
“Some guys, they’re not able to think that way, in wanting to win, almost waiting to lose,” Tortorella said. “Other parts of the game, I think it’s execution.”
There is a third factor that surely is in play. The Flyers have been hit hard with injuries. Scott Laughton, Wade Allison, James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier are on IR, Cam Atkinson has not played this season, and Travis Konecny is expected to be out for more than a week.
Not that the Flyers have reached defeatist mode, Frost insisted.
“To be honest, I think there’s still a good feeling in the locker room,” he said. “We’re working hard. You can make as many excuses as you want, but it’s obviously tough when you’re missing so many guys.
“I think everyone’s working their hardest. We’ve got to finish games and focus in some of the details that are costing us.”