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Chasing history: Where the Penguins' winning streak stands all time

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

The Pittsburgh Penguins have won 13 games in a row. Where does that stand all time? (USATSI)
The Pittsburgh Penguins have won 13 games in a row. Where does that stand all time? (USATSI)

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The Penguins are now the first team in NHL history to record a 10-game winning streak in three consecutive seasons. Their current streak, which started earlier this month, reached 13 in a row thanks to Tuesday's 1-0 win against Montreal and they have a chance to keep it rolling on Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets at the Consol Energy Center.

They're just four wins away from tying the NHL record, and only three teams in NHL history have won more games in a row in a single season.

It's a streak that has sent them to the top of the Eastern Conference standings (and put them into a race with the Chicago Blackhawks for the Presidents' Trophy) and opened up what is almost surely an insurmountable lead in the Atlantic Division (New Jersey trails by 15 points as of Wednesday evening).

So where does the streak stand among the longest win streaks in league history?

Well, if they beat the Jets on Thursday they will have tied the 1929-30 Boston Bruins for the third-longest winning streak ever.

That Bruins team was in its sixth year of existence and ended up losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Montreal Canadiens two games to none. That Bruins roster had seven Hall of Famers on it: Dit Clapper, Marty Barry, Mickey MacKay, Harry Oliver, Tiny Thompson, Cooney Weiland, and the most famous player on that team, Eddie Shore (now that's old-time hockey).

The Bruins' record stood all the way until the early 1980s when the New York Islanders machine was right in the middle of its dynasty and put together 15 consecutive wins during the 1981-82 season on their way to their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

The Islanders didn't just beat teams during this streak, they demolished them, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 97-35. The average margin of victory was 6-2. The Islanders scored fewer than six goals just three times (and only twice did they score fewer than five) and scored seven or more seven times. Their playoff run ended on a nine-game winning streak that included a sweep of the Quebec Nordiques in the Conference Final and a sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

That record was broken by the 1992-93 Penguins -- coming off their second straight Stanley Cup -- who won 17 games in a row. The streak ended on the final day of the regular season with a 6-6 tie against the New Jersey Devils. They went on to beat the Devils in the first three games of the playoffs. Their quest for a third consecutive Stanley Cup ended in the next round when they were shocked by the Islanders (who played the series without Pierre Turgeon -- it was also the last playoff series the Islanders won).

Long-time observers of the Penguins call this the single-best team in franchise history and was highlighted by what might have been the best season of Mario Lemieux's career. He missed 24 games while underdoing treatment for Hodgkins Disease only to return to the lineup and still win the scoring title (160) by 12 points. Had he maintained that point production over a full season he would have finished with 218 points.

The Penguins broke the Islanders record with a 10-4 win against the Rangers in New York, a game that saw Lemieux score five goals and receive a standing ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd. As a visiting player. This after he received a standing ovation in Philadelphia after returning to the lineup. I'm confident in saying it's the only time a visiting player received such treatment in those two buildings in the same season.

So that's where the streak currently stands and what they're chasing.

The Penguins' next three games are at home against Winnipeg on Thursday, the Islanders on Saturday, and Buffalo next Tuesday. If they should happen to win those games they will have a chance to tie the record next Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden just a little over 20 years to the day that the 1992-93 team broke the Islanders' record -- at Madison Square Garden.

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