Heading into Saturday’s game versus Florida, the Penguins’ lead in the standings over Tampa Bay had narrowed to just one point with the Lightning’s win over Minnesota earlier that afternoon. But the Penguins proved that they want home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over the Panthers at BankAtlantic Center, regaining a three-point lead over Tampa Bay in the standings.
The Penguins displayed impressive grit and resiliency when they battled back from the Panthers’ pair of goals over a 22-second span in the opening frame that gave Florida a 2-1 lead.
Pittsburgh buckled down and took their game to a whole new level over the following 40 minutes, not allowing the Panthers to get back on the board. The Penguins held the Panthers to just three shots in the middle frame (after Florida threw 15 pucks to the net in the first) and evened the score 2-2 thanks to a Pascal Dupuis tally.
That opened the door for Zbynek Michalek to score the game-winning goal with just 7:11 remaining in the third. Craig Adams then iced the victory with an empty-net goal with 1:30 left in the game.
Brent Johnson was sharp from the get go, making 13 saves in the first as the Panthers attacked furiously in the first 20 minutes. He then came up with several key saves in the third as time wound down, giving his team a chance to win with each impressive stop.
With the win, the Penguins regained their three-point lead over Tampa Bay in the race for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage. Pittsburgh has also reached the 100-point mark for the second-straight season and the fourth time in the past five years.
Brent Johnson put forth an outstanding effort between the pipes for the Penguins on Saturday, making 28 saves in Pittsburgh’s 4-2 victory.
Johnson had to be sharp from the get go in his first game between the pipes since March 21, as the Panthers earned some quality chances early and sent a total of 15 shots to the net in the first period.
But Johnson made 13 saves in the opening frame to keep the ship steady and his team within just one goal of the Panthers, and he continued his stellar play through the remaining 40 minutes.
Florida battled hard to get the go-ahead goal in the third period, but Johnson was up to the task, stopping all 12 shots they threw at him in the final 20 minutes to ensure the Penguins would earn the eventual 4-2 victory.
Johnson’s save of the game came with just under seven minutes remaining, when he robbed Panthers forward David Booth with a wheeling glove save. Johnson then stayed cool and collected through a Panthers four-on-three advantage with just 3:30 left in the game to allow his team to keep their 3-2 lead and score an empty-net goal with 1:30 remaining to seal the win.
Johnson is now 7-3-3 on the road this season and 12-5-3 overall.
With just under eight minutes remaining in regulation and the score tied at 2-2, Panthers forward David Booth made a nifty toe-drag move to create a lane for himself to bear down on Penguins netminder Brent Johnson.
But Johnson came up with a fantastic wheeling glove save that denied the Panthers forward from finding the back of the net and giving Florida the lead.
Just 38 seconds later, the Penguins would convert on a delayed penalty call on a blistering shot from defenseman Zbynek Michalek to go up 3-2, which would not have been possible without the lightning-fast glove of Johnson.
The Penguins would not surrender their lead for the remaining seven minutes, scoring an empty-net goal with 1:30 remaining to earn an eventual 4-2 victory over the Panthers.
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek scored with 7:49 left and the Penguins handed the Florida Panthers their eighth consecutive loss, 3-2 on Saturday night.
Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis also scored for the Penguins, who solidified their hold on fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Jordan Staal had three assists, and Craig Adams scored an empty-net goal with 1:30 remaining.
Brent Johnson stopped 28 shots for Pittsburgh, which swept Florida in a season series for the first time.
- With tonight’s win, Pittsburgh regained their three-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the race for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage in a potential playoff series between the teams. The Lightning have one game in hand.
- With his goal just 1:45 minutes into the first period, Tyler Kennedy has now reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his NHL career. The fourth-year forward now has nine points (5G-4A) in his last 10 contests and 13 goals and 21 points over his last 27 games. With four games remaining in the regular season, Kennedy has already established career highs with 20 goals, 22 assists and 42 points.
- Center Jordan Staal recorded his 100th-career assist when he earned the primary helper on Tyler Kennedy’s first-period tally. Staal finished the night with a total of three assists and led all Penguins forwards with 16:45 of ice time. Staal, 22, is just six goals from reaching the century mark in that category and three points from reaching 200 for his career.
- Chris Kunitz’s assist on Tyler Kennedy’s goal gives him 47 points on the season. Kunitz is now just three points from hitting the 50-point mark for the fourth time in the past five campaigns.
- The Penguins have now swept the season series against the Panthers for the first time in franchise history and have won seven of their last eight games against Florida. This is the third time in the last four seasons the Penguins have finished with a winning record against the Panthers (12-4 overall).
- Craig Adams' empty-net goal ended a 28-game goalless drought for the Penguins forward dating back to Jan. 25.
#1. Jordan Staal
Center - 11
#2. Zbynek Michalek
Defenseman - 4
#3. Jack Skille
Forward - 15
Author: Michelle Crechiolo