Crosby scored twice before finding the net again in the shootout to lead the Penguins (44-25-7) over Toronto 5-4 at home Sunday. The superstar center's performance snapped a personal seven-game goal drought, but came one night after he had three assists in a 4-1 victory over Philadelphia to open the Pens' final six-game homestand at Mellon Arena.
Crosby, whose career-high 47 goals lead the league and whose 94 points rank third, might be getting back some reinforcements.
Malkin -- second on the team with 24 goals and 70 points -- has missed six of seven games with a bruised right foot, and Crosby has struggled in his absence. Crosby's goal Sunday was his first in 12 games without the reigning winner of both the Art Ross and Conn Smythe trophies.
Gonchar, the club's leading scorer among defensemen with 44 points, will miss a fourth consecutive game due to strep throat.
Both Malkin and Gonchar hope to be back on the ice Saturday against Atlanta.
Their returns can't come soon enough. Pittsburgh leads the Atlantic Division by one point on second-place New Jersey with six games remaining for both clubs.
"We are battling for the division lead," Gonchar told the team's official Web site."The guys are doing a great job. We have a few games left, so we have to finish strong."
The Penguins have taken five of the last six meetings with the Lightning (30-34-12), including two of three this season. Crosby has three assists in the season series -- two coming in a 4-1 win Oct. 17 at Mellon Arena.
A 4-13-1 slump has all but eliminated the Lightning, who are 10 points behind Philadelphia and Montreal for the final two postseason positions with six games remaining.
Tampa Bay fell again Tuesday, wasting a one-goal third-period lead to lose 3-2 at Columbus, a club already assured of missing the playoffs. The Lightning had 22 penalty minutes, and Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash made them pay by netting the winning goal on a power play midway through the third.
"Penalties not only stop our momentum but it gives them momentum and obviously they took advantage of it," said center Vincent Lecavalier, who had a goal against the Blue Jackets to give him five goals and four assists in his last 11 games.
Lecavalier has two goals and four assists during a five-game point streak against Pittsburgh.