SUNRISE, Fla. – The puck slid between Ty Conklin’s legs into the net, proving the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltender isn’t perfect.
He’s still unbeaten, however. Conklin made 27 saves to win for the eighth time in as many starts this season, and the Penguins extended their longest winning streak in nine years to seven games Tuesday by beating the Florida Panthers 3-1.
Conklin lost his shutout on a short-handed goal by Gregory Campbell, who scored for the third time this season at 15:51 of the third period.
Was Conklin disappointed to lose the shutout?
“Not really. We got the win,” he said. “The team’s been playing well. We’ve been getting some breaks. We’ve been doing a lot of little things that work.”
Conklin has started each of the past seven contests, allowing nine goals during that span.
“It starts with our goalie. He’s playing great,” teammate Ryan Whitney said. “You don’t want to get too confident or cocky, but we feel like we can play with any team and we have been.”
The game was scoreless until midway through the second period, when the Penguins scored three times in 3:06, with Sidney Crosby contributing a goal and an assist.
“We were making sure we keep our foot on the gas,” Crosby said.
Panthers coach Jacques Martin then replaced goalie Tomas Vokoun with Craig Anderson. Vokoun came in with a .920 save percentage, but stopped only 20 of 23 shots.
“I was trying to change the momentum,” Martin said. “He has played a lot. It’s not an indication … none of the goals were his fault.”
The Penguins’ winning streak is their longest since they won 10 in a row in 1998-99. They’ve outscored opponents 24-9 during the streak, and their past two wins have come against Florida.
Conklin shut out the Panthers 3-0 on Saturday.
Florida lost for the fifth time in six games, while Pittsburgh remained one point behind first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.
Martin broke up his top line, and centre Olli Jokinen teamed with Brett McLean and Richard Zednik. But the change failed to spark Florida’s sputtering offence.
“Three minutes killed us,” defenceman Bryan Allen said. “It’s the difference in the game.”
The Penguins took the lead midway through the second period on a power play. Petr Sykora scored his 13th goal on a wrist shot after taking a pass across the crease from Crosby. Evgeni Malkin also assisted.
Pittsburgh needed only 76 seconds to score again. Crosby notched his 18th goal with a wrist shot from between the circles, beating Vokoun on the stick side.
Less than two minutes later, Georges Laraque scored his third goal of the season, poking in a rebound after Jeff Taffe’s shot bounced off the post.
“We didn’t play quite the way we wanted in the third, but we kept the goalie shots to a minimum,” Conklin said. “The first two periods were picture perfect.”
The Penguins won for the ninth time in 11 games. They’re 16-5 in their past 21 games.
“We’re disciplined, and a reason why we’re disciplined is we try to keep our shifts short,” coach Michel Therrien said. “Guys are not tired on the ice. When you’re not tired, you don’t have to hook and try to retreat the puck.”
With the game still scoreless, the goal light went on when Florida’s Stephen Weiss kicked the puck in the net at 8:23 in the second period, but referee Michael McGeough immediately waved it off.
Conklin stopped Gregory Campbell on a breakaway later in the period, shortly before Pittsburgh took the lead.
“We were aggressive and really sharp in the second period,” Therrien said. “One key point I think was on the breakaway, when Conklin made that save and we came down and scored. That certainly gives us some momentum.”
Notes: Pittsburgh’s lone penalty was on Conklin for delay of game. … The Penguins improved to 6-1 against Southeast Division teams. … Defenceman Branislav Mezei, bothered by a sore hand, was the Panthers’ scratch.