SUNRISE, Fla. – Sidney Crosby had another big night for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it was little-known Chris Conner who netted the late-game winner.
Conner scored his first goal of the season with 7:04 remaining to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
Conner, playing in his sixth game after being recalled from the minors, one-timed Mark Letestu’s pass past Tomas Vokoun on the blocker side for the only goal of the third period.
“I was trying to get it off quick,” Conner said. “It was in tight, so I figured I’d just surprise him, and it was good.”
Kris Letang and Crosby had power-play goals for the Penguins, who came in with the NHL’s 25th-ranked power play.
Crosby, who also had an assist, extended his career-best point streak to nine games. He has at least two points in eight of 11 games. With 35 points, Crosby is tied for the NHL scoring lead with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.
Crosby and Stamkos tied with a league-best 51 goals last season.
Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe scored for the Panthers (9-10), who missed a chance to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season. Vokoun finished with 23 saves.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves for Pittsburgh, which improved to 5-0-1 in its last six games.
“I was totally relaxed, and the guys played good for me,” Fleury said.
The Panthers went 0-for-5 on the power play, making them 0-for-25 over the last six games.
“The power play cost us the game again,” McCabe said. “They get two, we get zero, had a bunch of opportunities. It’s got to win us a game at some point. Right now, it’s costing us games.”
The Panthers were playing at home for the first time since ending a four-game road trip.
Pittsburgh (12-8-2) dominated play early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first and outshooting Florida 13-6 at one point.
“That was nice,” Crosby said. “It was one of those things where you start well, draw a few penalties, and make them pay. We had a few chances after that, but great start.”
Stillman sliced the lead in half with 35 seconds left in the period. After Fleury gave up a high rebound off Jason Garrison’s shot, Stillman moved his stick forward, and the puck bounced in off his glove. The goal was upheld after a video review.
“That was a big goal at the end of the period, and we started to play our game in the second and third,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “We were worried about a little post-trip hangover first game back, and we saw it in the first period. It would have been better if we could have weathered the storm a little bit. It’s a big hole against a team like that.”
After McCabe tied it in the second period, both teams had shots bounce off the post.
Matt Cooke almost converted a wrister while Pittsburgh was short-handed in the second, and Florida’s Chris Higgins was just off in the third.
“Our second wasn’t great,” Crosby said. “They probably played better. The third was probably 50-50. … A big goal from Conner, and (Fleury) made some big saves. It wasn’t going to be pretty, but we found a way.”
NOTES: Florida played without F Steve Reinprecht (groin) and F Rostislav Olesz (broken finger). … The Panthers remained the only team in the league without an overtime game this season. … The game was part of the Penguins’ annual “Dad’s Trip,” which also includes Wednesday’s game at Buffalo.