The Pittsburgh Penguins
have reached the 100-point mark for the seventh time in franchise history. This one was a lot harder than the first six.
With Sidney Crosby
out since January and Evgeni Malkin
sidelined for the season not long afterwards, scoring has been a challenge for the Penguins. But they continue to find enough offense to win. They did it again on Saturday when defenseman Zbynek Michalek
-- better known for stopping goals than scoring them -- snapped a 2-2 tie with 7:49 left in a 4-2 victory against the slumping Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.
"Getting the 100 points, maintaining a three-point margin when it comes to home ice, was big for us," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said. "Big game for us, a big win coming after two losses, and now we're going home."
The win kept the Penguins three points ahead of fifth-place Tampa Bay, which won earlier Saturday, in the race for home-ice advantage in the likely Eastern Conference first-round playoff matchup. Tampa Bay has four games remaining; the Penguins have three.
"That's something we talked about before the game," Michalek said of finishing ahead of the Lightning. "We wanted to get home-ice advantage, if possible. We wanted to make sure we had a good game and came up with two points, and that's what we did."
Michalek has 4 goals this season, all in the past 12 games. With a delayed penalty upcoming against Florida, Michalek beat Scott Clemmensen
with a slap shot from the top of the right circle for a 3-2 lead.
"I feel more comfortable now shooting the puck," said Michalek, who joined Pittsburgh as a free agent last summer after spending five seasons with Phoenix. "It took a while for me to get the first one, but now I feel really good and can keep it going."
and Pascal Dupuis
also scored for the Penguins, who snapped a two-game losing streak. Jordan Staal
had three assists, and Craig Adams
scored an empty-net goal with 1:30 remaining. Brent Johnson
stopped 28 shots as the Penguins swept Florida in a season series for the first time.
"One hundred points is fantastic," Johnson said. "It's a big two points. The 100-point mark is pretty good, but we want more. We want to be flying going into the playoffs."
A little more than a minute after Michalek's goal, Johnson made a great pad save on David Booth
's backhand attempt. Johnson then made another big pad saves Marty Reasoner during a 4-on-3 power play.
"When we got the lead, he had to come up strong in the third," Bylsma said. "It's great to see him have that success, but it's a guy we know is going to battle in there for us."
and Clay Wilson scored for the Panthers, who've lost eight in a row -- their worst skid since a 12-game slide (0-8-4) during the 2005-06 season. The Panthers haven't won since beating Toronto 4-0 on March 17.
Clemmensen, making his fourth consecutive start in place of injured Tomas Vokoun, made 30 saves.
"I thought our effort was there," Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. "We played a good game. Again, though, you have to score to win in this League. Two (goals) is not enough. Two is double our normal output lately, but it's not enough to win."
The Panthers took a 2-1 lead in the first period on goals by Skille and Wilson 22 seconds apart. It was the fastest two goals scored by Florida this season.
After Kennedy gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead with his 20th goal, Skille scored his first for Florida since being acquired from Chicago in February. He knocked down a pass from Reasoner in front of the net and flicked a quick shot past Johnson at 14:38.
"It's just good to get the monkey off my back. Now I can just worry about playing hockey and trying to help this team win," said Skille, who had missed the last four games and 16 of the last 18 with an ankle injury.
Wilson scored his third goal in 12 games since begin recalled from the minors at 15:00 when he beat Johnson with a wrist shot from just above the left faceoff dot.
Dupuis tied it 45 seconds into the second period when Maxime Talbot's spinaround backhand attempt from the front of the net went across the crease. With Clemmensen out of position, Dupuis scored into an open net.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.