Making only his fourth start since Dec. 21, Thibault outduelled veteran Ed Belfour to help the Penguins slip past Florida for a 2-1 victory. Colby Armstrong beat Belfour at 2:39 of overtime to win it with a wrist shot to the short side when he skated in on a 2-on-1 after taking a pass from Maxime Talbot. “He (Belfour) started cheating over when he thought I was going to pass it, Armstrong said. “I just decided to shoot it when he came off (the post) a little bit. He just went down, so I put it up high.”
Therrien decided to go with Thibault instead of regular goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after Fleury gave up six goals in a 6-5 loss to the Islanders on Monday that snapped the Penguins’ 14-0-2 streak.
Thibault stopped 32 of 33 shots, including 18 of 19 in the second period.
“That’s a performance you need from your goaltender this time of year,” Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. “The guy between the pipes has to make key saves, and that’s what Jocelyn did.”
“I’ve been working real hard all year, just waiting in the shadows, waiting for my chance, said Thibault, who improved to 4-5-2 this season. “When I get a chance to play I want to make the best of it.”
“It’s a great feeling to be able to chip in towards the end of the season. All year I’ve felt like my game was coming back.”
For Belfour, it was another strong performance.
Belfour made 39 saves, including several key stops in the third period to keep the score tied 1-1.
“He’s been pretty outstanding in that last little stretch; tonight was no different, Florida defenceman Jay Bouwmeester said. “He kept us in the game for a while. It’s pretty amazing what he’s doing for a guy who’s over 40 years old.”
Jordan Staal also scored for Pittsburgh, which won at Florida for only the second time in 10 games.
Juraj Kolnik scored for Florida, which dropped to 1-13 in overtime and shootout games this season.
“I think we’re all pretty disappointed right now even though we got a point, defenceman Mike Van Ryn said. “We’re pretty much in desperation time, we need every point we can get.”
Staal scored in the first period on a 5-on-3 power play when he tipped in Evgeni Malkin’s slap shot while standing in front of the net with 3:35 left.
Florida tied it with 2:19 left in the second period after a nice effort by Chris Gratton, who dumped the puck into the Pittsburgh end, got to the loose puck and backhanded a pass that Kolnik tipped in from the front of the net.
The Panthers had other scoring chances in the second period, but Thibault made the stops on several occasions.
“Both goalies were battling the whole game, said Penguins centre Sidney Crosby. “(Thibault) stuck in there the whole way and made some huge saves to keep us in the game and that was a real big difference in the game.”
“It was a battle between those two guys all night. It wasn’t a tight-checking game, it was wide open. Both guys were really good.”
In the end, though, Thibault was just a little bit better.
“It was a pretty good goaltending duel tonight,” Armstrong said. “Thibault played awesome. He made some huge saves. This was a good game to win against a good team that came at us hard.”
Notes:Florida dropped to 7-21-9 when opponents score first. … Crosby, the NHL scoring leader, assisted on Staal’s goal, extending his point streak to six games. … Malkin also extended his point streak to six games. … Pittsburgh improved to 10-9 in overtime.