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Penguins 5, Panthers 1 @NHLdotcom

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped a long losing streak to the Florida Panthers and knocked their nemesis out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists, Sebastien Caron made 36 saves, and the Penguins ended their 12-game losing skid against Florida with a 5-1 victory Friday night.

Konstantin Koltsov, Ryan Whitney, Ryan Malone and John LeClair also scored for Pittsburgh, the NHL's worst team this season.

Jay Bouwmeester scored for Florida but Roberto Luongo stopped only 14 of 18 shots through two periods. That was enough to eliminate the Panthers from the postseason chase. The best they can do is tie eighth-place Tampa Bay for the final spot, but the Lightning would win the tiebreaker based on more victories.

"We've been playing at a high level now for a month-and-a-half but there's no excuses," Florida forward Chris Gratton said. "We let down in all areas. We're embarrassed to play like that in front of our fans."

Crosby's 36th goal of his rookie season gave Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead at 14:17 of the second. Andy Hilbert passed to Crosby, who was skating toward the net. The teen phenom beat Luongo on the glove side from just outside the crease.

"Every time we played them this year, it has been brought up," Crosby said of the losing streak. "I'm not going to lie, it was something that was lingering. It was nice to finally close that up."

Bouwmeester's point shot went between Caron's legs at 13:51 of the third period and brought Florida within 4-1, but LeClair pushed Pittsburgh's advantage back to four goals with 3 minutes remaining. Caron had hoped to notch his second consecutive shutout.

"You go shot by shot and try not to think about it minute by minute," Caron said. "There's nothing you can do about it."

Pittsburgh scored first on Koltsov's short-handed goal at 8:32 of the first. Sergei Gonchar brought the puck along the right boards and fired a pass to Koltsov, who deflected the puck past Luongo. Just 1:17 later, Whitney grabbed a rebound in front of the crease and swept a shot in.

"It's been a while, but we knew the streak was going to end one way or another," Gonchar said. "It's nice we did it tonight."

The Penguins stretched the lead to 3-0 on their second short-handed goal of the game. Josef Melichar passed from the top of the left circle to Malone in front and he swatted the puck by Luongo at 7:32 of the second period.

"We didn't play a good game against New Jersey (a 6-4 loss on Wednesday). We had to bounce back and we did," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said.

Jamie McLennan made eight saves for Florida in the third.

"Give them credit, they worked harder than us," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "They got two short-handed goals and that was the difference."

Notes: Pittsburgh beat Florida for the first time since March 5, 2002. ... Crosby has a four-game goal streak. ... Luongo lost for the first time in 12 games against the Penguins.

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