TAMPA, Fla. – Even short-handed, the Pittsburgh Penguins continued their drive toward the best record in the East.
Jussi Jokinen scored two goals and added an assist, Pascal Dupuis had a goal and two assists, and the Eastern-Conference leading Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3 Thursday night.
“Obviously, we have a really good team and we’re missing a couple of key players still,” Jokinen said. “We have some depth on this team as well, and that’s what you need when you go to the playoffs.”
Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and Tanner Glass had the other Pittsburgh goals. Dupuis has three goals and eight points during a four-game points streak.
The Atlantic Division champion Penguins have a five-point lead over Montreal for the top seed in the conference.
The Penguins are still without centre Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), left wing James Neal (concussion) and defenceman Paul Martin (hand). Defenceman Kris Letang was back in the lineup and had an assist after missing the previous six games with a lower body injury.
“It was fun to be part of a match and with the win, it makes it even better,” Letang said.
Pittsburgh has a six-game winning streak against the Lightning.
“That’s a really good team,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s a team that has won 15 games in a row in the top league in the world.”
Teddy Purcell had two goals for the Lightning, 13th in the Eastern Conference. Brett Connolly had the other Tampa Bay goal.
Early third-period goals by Malkin and Jokinen gave the Penguins a 5-2 lead. Glass got his first goal in 56 games during a late third-period power play.
“For me, it was just a relief,” Glass said. “I think the bench was happier than I was, but look out now. The floodgates are open, so I hope I have a few more of those.”
Kunitz put Pittsburgh up 3-1 with a redirection on the power play early in the second period. But Connolly stopped a personal 54-game goal drought dating back to Nov. 17, 2011 against Pittsburgh, when he got Tampa Bay within 3-2 with a man-advantage goal.
The Penguins had taken a 1-0 lead 4:07 into the game when Jokinen scored from near the post on a rebound. Dupuis made it 2-0 during a power play on another rebound goal.
“They did a good job of just getting to the net,” said Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop, who made 35 saves.
After Malkin was called for tripping while battling for position in front of the Tampa Bay net, Purcell cut the Lightning deficit to 2-1 from the right circle. He connected off a pass from Steven Stamkos on the ensuing power play.
Purcell scored another power-play goal in the final minute of the game.
Penguins backup goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped 16 shots.
The chippy game had a total of 23 penalties, including two fighting majors, a 10-minute misconduct and 10 roughing minors.
NOTES: Crosby missed his fifth consecutive game. Neal has been out the past two games. Martin, sidelined six straight games, has resumed skating on his own. … Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman missed his fourth game due to a lower body injury, but could return this weekend. … Malkin got his 556th point on his goal, which moved him past Kevin Stevens into seventh place on the Penguins’ career list.