PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby found a lot of ways to score in his 300th career NHL regular-season game.
Crosby had a power-play goal and a short-handed score in the third period, and had the only goal in a shootout to help the Pittsburgh Penguins win their seventh straight game, 3-2 over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
“We struggled in the first half, but we were able to rebound,” said Crosby, who has 407 career points. “We stuck with things, and that shows a lot.”
After erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period, Crosby beat Tomas Vokoun with a nifty deke in the shootout for the Stanley Cup champion Penguins, an NHL-best 9-1-0.
Steven Reinprecht scored twice in the first period for Florida. The Panthers have lost six of seven to drop to 2-5-1.
“The effort’s good, but effort doesn’t get you two points,” Florida defenceman Keith Ballard said. “We were kind of dumb in the third period. We took too many penalties and stayed in our end the whole time… In the third, they pick it up a little bit and it’s almost like we just kind of clammed up just trying to hang.”
In the shootout, Crosby moved in slowly on Vokoun and made three moves to his forehand before finally tucking it into the net as Vokoun dove to his left.
Crosby improved to 3-for-3 in shootouts this season with his 10th career game-deciding shootout goal.
Brent Johnson stopped the Panthers’ Reinprecht, Ville Koistinen and Nathan Horton during the shootout and made 27 saves during regulation and overtime in winning for the first time as a Penguin.
Pittsburgh won in the first game since all-star defenceman Sergei Gonchar was lost for at least four weeks because of a broken bone in his wrist.
“We were still in striking distance (heading into the third),” Crosby said. “We felt like even in the second half of the second period, we created some chances. Even though we were down 2-0 going into the third, we felt like we were pretty close.”
Crosby tied it with 3:19 to play with his short-handed goal, one-timing a feed from Evgeni Malkin with a shot that appeared to deflect off a Florida player. The short-handed goal was the first in the NHL for Crosby.
Crosby’s first goal of the game came a second after a 5-on-3 power play had expired 2:14 into the third after a diving effort to keep in the puck in the zone by Malkin. Malkin swatted the puck to Alex Goligoski, who fed an open Crosby in the right-wing circle.
“We had a bad start, but after that we played better and did a good job in the third period,” Malkin said. “(Johnson) played very well.”
Reinprecht scored twice in a 2:37 span.
Florida entered the game with only one power-play goal in three road games this season, but scored one on its second opportunity 12:39 into the fist period when Reinprecht flipped a wrist shot past Pittsburgh backup goalie Brent Johnson.
Reinprecht then scored for the fourth time in his past three games by tapping in a loose puck into a wide open net when Johnson couldn’t handle a shot from Nathan Horton.
“We couldn’t get a third goal,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “We had opportunities, I thought maybe four or five tonight; some 2-on-1s, some chances around the net, but we have to find a way to get more goals.”
For a while, it appeared as if Vokoun would make that hold up. He made 41 saves, including stopping Malkin while on a power play 40 seconds into he third period with a glove save but the sequence included Rostislav Olesz’s hooking penalty that led to Crosby’s power play goal.
“It’s a good way to develop that third period mentality, wear teams down and have a pretty good number of goals in the positive for the third period,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “That is something we talk about.”
This was only the third game this season Pittsburgh did not score first and also only the third time it trailed heading into the third period. The Penguins improved to 2-1 in each instance.
“Every game’s not going to be perfect,” Crosby said. “We found a way to turn the game around.”
NOTES: Penguins C Jordan Staal left the game briefly late in the second period and early in the third because of an undisclosed injury. He returned to finish the game. … D Cory Stillman assisted on both Florida goals. … Vokoun hasn’t won since the Panthers’ season opener. … D Martin Skoula made his season debut for the Penguins in place of Gonchar.