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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Panthers 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins incredible run continues as the team won their fifth straight contest and improved to 4-0-0 on the current five-game road trip with a 4-1 victory against the Florida Panthers. It was a key win over the Panthers, who are in a battle with the Penguins for a playoff spot. Pittsburgh came on top in the proverbial “four-point swing.”

Both goalies (Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun) were “standing on their heads” through the first two periods. Both teams registered a combined 55 shots, but the game was tied at 1-1 despite some quality scoring chances.

The Panthers were able to skate with the Penguins in the first two periods. However, Pittsburgh’s up-tempo style seemed to wear Florida down in the third period. The Penguins asserted their will in the final frame, scoring two goals early and one goal late to clinch a clutch victory.

The importance of this game in the standings can’t be understated. The Penguins are still in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference but they’ve pulled even with Florida and the New York Rangers and opened up some room between themselves and Buffalo and Carolina (see playoff chace below).
(AP) - Sidney Crosby had a goal in his return to Pittsburgh's lineup, and Tyler Kennedy scored twice in the third period to help the Penguins beat the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Thursday night.

Kris Letang also had a third-period goal for Pittsburgh, which earned its fifth straight win.

Bill Guerin, traded to Pittsburgh from the New York Islanders on Wednesday, had an assist on Crosby's goal. Crosby missed Pittsburgh's last four games because of a groin injury, and skated on a new line with Guerin and Chris Kunitz, also acquired in a trade while Crosby was out with the injury.

Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 63 34-19-10 78
5. Montreal 64 34-23-7 75
6. Florida 65 33-24-8 74
7. NY Rangers 65 33-24-8 74
8. Pittsburgh 66 34-26-6 74
9. Buffalo 64 32-25-7 71
10. Carolina 65 33-27-5 71

Team Notables:
Buffalo: Off day - Hosts Phoenix Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Carolina: Off day - Hosts Calgary Friday at 7 p.m.
Florida: Lost to Pittsburgh, 4-1
Montreal: Off day - Plays at Atlanta at 7:30 p.m.
NY Rangers: Won at NY Islanders, 4-2
Philadelphia: Lost to Calgary, 5-1

Bill Guerin made his Penguins debut and tallied his 800th career point (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Marc-Andre Fleury
The opening 40 minutes of the game was a goaltenders’ dual between Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun. The two goalies combined for 53 saves in the first two periods, yielding only two goals. Fleury made several spectacular saves, especially stopping Radek Dvorak on a breakaway, but surrendered the game’s first goal. After that, Fleury shut the door on the Panthers and backstopped Penguins to victory.

What Could Have Gone Better: Chris Kunitz Shot
The Penguins tallied 47 shots against Florida, the most in a game this season. Pittsburgh was firing the puck at every opportunity. Every Penguin registered a shot on goal except one…Chris Kunitz. Maybe next time, Pittsburgh will have a shot from everyone. 
Tyler Kennedy came through for the Penguins in a big way in a critical four-point game. Kennedy was rewarded for his excellent work ethic with two goals, including the game-winner. Early in the second period the Penguins were struggling to get the puck out of their zone. Pittsburgh eventually pushed the puck to neutral ice. Kennedy raced to get their as two Panthers converged on him. Kennedy knew he was going to get crushed. Still, Kennedy went hard, pushed the puck up ice and then braced for the hit. Both Panthers sandwiched Kennedy but he made the play. Kennedy also had five shots and a plus-2 rating to go with his two goals.
Florida struck first in the game. Gregory Campbell had the puck behind the Pittsburgh net and threw it to Radek Dvorak, who was to the side of to the crease. The puck bounced around Dvorak’s and Kris Letang’s skates. Finally, Dvorak managed to roof the puck over Marc-Andre Fleury and into the goal. Florida 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Sidney Crosby, playing in his first game since missing four with a groin injury, nailed a tying goal just 24 seconds after Florida took the lead. Newly acquired Bill Guerin collected the puck near the Penguins blue line and made a perfect backhand pass to a streaking Crosby. The Penguins center had a step on Panthers blueliner Jay Bouwmeester, who was flatfooted in the neutral zone. Crosby went wide around Bouwmeester, protecting the puck with his body. Crosby then unleashed a wrist shot far side on Tomas Vokoun. Pittsburgh 1, Florida 1.

Tyler Kennedy buried a one-timer in the high slot to give Pittsburgh the lead. The play was the result of some good cycling by the Penguins. Matt Cooke had the puck on the near halfwall. He threw the puck towards the slot. Kennedy nailed a slap shot in stride into the far top corner. Pittsburgh 2, Florida 1.

Letang upped the Penguins advantage. Letang faked a shot from the near point and Campbell slid to the ice to block the shot. Letang then skated around Campbell into the near faceoff dot and scored far side. Pittsburgh 3, Florida 1.

Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard pinched at the blue line to keep the puck in the Penguins zone. However, Ruslan Fedotenko picked off his pass and threw the puck to Evgeni Malkin, who had a two-on-one with Kennedy. Malkin goaded Karlis Skrastins to the ice and then set up Kennedy for a one-timer. Kennedy blasted in his second goal of the game. Pittsburgh 4, Florida 1.
Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup after missing four consecutive games with a groin injury. He was paired with deadline acquisition Bill Guerin, who was making his Penguin debut, and Chris Kunitz. Craig Adams, a waiver wire pick up, also played his first game for Pittsburgh. Sergei Gonchar missed the game to be with his wife for the birth of their second baby. Alex Goligoski was recalled to fill his spot.

Congratulations are in order for the Gonchar family. would like to welcome the newest member of the Penguins family, Victoria Gonchar, a 7-pound, 3-ounce, 21-inch baby girl.

On a sad note, our hearts go out to Penguins equipment manager Dana Heinze and his family. Heinze’s father, Louis J. Heinze, passed away Wednesday. We wish Heinze and his family our condolences during these difficult times.
> Pittsburgh improved to 34-26-6 on the year, with a 17-14-4 mark on the road. Pittsburgh has won five straight games and is 4-0-0 on the current five-game road trip.

> Pittsburgh is 7-1-1 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> Scoring Summary:
FLA, R.Dvorak (11), 17:49 2nd period: Panthers 1, Penguins 0
PIT, S.Crosby (24), 18:13 2nd period: Penguins 1, Panthers 1
PIT, T.Kennedy (10), 2:24 3rd period: Penguins 2, Panthers 1
PIT, K.Letang (7), 4:37 3rd period: Penguins 3, Panthers 1
PIT, T.Kennedy (11), 15:34 3rd period: Penguins 4, Panthers 1

> Pittsburgh posted 47 shots in the game, the most this season. Chris Kunitz was the only Penguin not to register a shot.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assist against Florida to extend his NHL lead in points to 94 (29G-65A). Malkin’s 65 assists are a league-best and a new single-season career high. Malkin has a point in his last 12 road games for 19 (8G-9A) in that stretch. 

> Malkin has a 10-game scoring streak in which he’s tallied 14 points (5G-9A). Malkin has notched a point in 21 of his last 24 games.

> Sidney Crosby scored a goal in his first game back after missing the previous four contests due to a groin injury. He is third in the league in scoring with 80 points (24G-56A) and his 56 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 63 (as of the completion of Pittsburgh’s game).

> Marc-Andre Fleury quietly made 31 saves to net his fifth consecutive victory, and seventh win in his past eight games. The victory was the 102nd of his career. He is only the third goalie in Penguins’ history to hit the century mark and is two shy of Ken Wregget (104) for second place on the Penguins’ all-time wins list.

> Tyler Kennedy scored two goals to set a new single-season career high (10, last season). He has three points (2G-1A) in his last two games. 

> Kris Letang tallied his seventh goal of the season, a new single-season career high (6, last season). Letang has two goals in his last three games.

> Bill Guerin played in his first game as a Penguin after being acquired at the trade deadline. He tallied an assist, the 800th point of his NHL career.

> Brooks Orpik notched two assists against Florida. It was his fourth two-point game of the season. He’s already blown away his previous career highs in points (17, previously 11) and assists (15, previously 11) this season.

> Craig Adams played in his first game as a Penguin.
1. M.Fleury, PIT
2. S.Crosby, PIT
3. R.Dvorak, FLA
“You can’t win all five on the trip if we didn’t get this one.”

“That was a huge answer. They got the first goal and
it could have been deflating but the captain (Sidney
Crosby) answers with a goal. The phone was
ringing and that was a big answer.”

- Dan Bylsma told FSN Pittsburgh


Author: Sam Kasan

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