SUNRISE, Fla. – The Pittsburgh Penguins broke out of their slump in a big way.
Evgeni Malkin scored late in the second period and the Penguins beat the Florida Panthers 4-1 Friday night.
Steve Sullivan, Tyler Kennedy, and James Neal also scored as the Penguins snapped a six-game losing streak, their longest since 2006, and got their first multigoal effort in the past six games. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 shots.
“It’s a huge relief. It wasn’t fun for anybody,” Fleury said. “It got frustrating, but everybody stuck together. Our last game in Washington (1-0 loss) was a good game for a lot of guys, but we couldn’t win that one. Tonight, again we played well, offensively, defensively, and it paid off.”
Michal Repik scored Florida’s goal and Scott Clemmensen made 37 saves.
After a scoreless opening period in which Pittsburgh had an 18-6 advantage on shots, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead on Sullivan’s goal at 1:49 of the second. Clemmensen attempted to bring the puck out from behind the net, but it slipped away from him and out to Matt Cooke below the right circle. He passed to Sullivan in the low slot, and Sullivan easily got the puck past Clemmensen trying to get back in position.
“Maybe we needed to get a little bit of a miscue and a fortunate goal to get us started, to get us on the right track after the first period,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins hit the post three times in the first period.
“They kept coming at us hard all night long, right from the start,” Clemmensen said. “They were a desperate team, they played desperate, they worked hard,they outworked us for the most part all night long. Give them credit. They outworked us and they deserved to win tonight.”
Malkin made it 2-0 with an unassisted score with 35 seconds to go in the period. Malkin brought the puck along the boards and shot from low in the left circle. His shot was blocked by Clemmensen and bounced off the end boards. Malkin grabbed the rebound and fired a backhanded shot that glanced off Clemmensen and into the net for his 18th goal of the season.
Kennedy stretched the lead 36 seconds into the third as the Penguins came down the ice with a 3-on-2 advantage and his wrist shot whistled past Clemmensen on the glove side.
Repik got the Panthers on the board at 6:55 of the final period, tipping in Jason Garrison’s shot from just inside the blue line. Garrison now has a career-high 19 points this season.
“We didn’t have the intensity level that they did,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “They came in here with the attitude that they were going to do whatever it took to win and it looked like we were looking for an easier way to win the game.”
Neal closed the scoring with 4:17 to go, sending a shot from the left circle past Clemmensen for his team-leading 22nd goal of the season.
“It’s obviously a good feeling to get out of a slump like that,” Neal said. “It’s been a long time since a win.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby skated Friday for the first time since Dec. 7th. Crosby is uncertain when he will return and says he still has concussion symptoms. … Pittsburgh is 15-6-3 when scoring first. … Panthers G Jose Theodore missed his fourth straight game with a knee injury, but skated Thursday and might return next week.