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Panthers halt six-game losing skid with 3-2 win over Penguins

Jokinen's first road goal of the season helped the Panthers halt a six-game losing streak and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Tuesday night. A few minutes after Sidney Crosby tied the game at 2-2 in the third period with a highlight-reel goal for Pittsburgh, Jokinen's slap shot from above the right circle on a power play won it for Florida. Penguins goalie Jocelyn Thibault was screened on the shot, something the Panthers emphasized in practice.

"It was a huge goal by Olli and exactly what we needed," goalie Alex Auld said.

Jokinen and Gary Roberts each had a goal and an assist and Ruslan Salei had two assists in Florida's first victory since beating Boston 3-2 on Nov. 20. The Panthers had scored one goal in their previous four games, and were outscored 23-9 during the losing streak.

Jokinen's game-winner was his 12th goal but first in 15 road games.

"It's been a tough last couple of weeks - (and) last month," Jokinen said. "We haven't been able to get wins but we haven't quit. I think the last three days we were moving in the right direction. We had good practices and we came out tonight and executed that way."

For the Penguins, it was more of the same - more losing and missed opportunities.

The Penguins lost their sixth in seven games and 12th in 16, even after Crosby seemingly gave them a big lift by scoring while holding off two defenders and being tugged to the ice.

Crosby grabbed the puck at mid-ice a few seconds after the Penguins went on the power play midway through the third and, switching from his forehand to his backhand, skated through defencemen Jay Bouwmeester and Ruslan Salei to wrist the puck past Auld while sliding to the ice.

Crosby's 11th goal was his first since Nov. 20, just before he missed three games with a groin injury. However, any momentum he created for a slumping team was quickly ended by Jokinen's goal.

"That was tough," Crosby said. "We kept pressing. But we couldn't find a way to get it done and we've got to do that."

Roberts had one of those here-we-go-again feelings after Crosby scored.

"All of a sudden, we were finding a way to lose again. But we showed some character," he said. "You knew it was one of those games where we would get an opportunity on the power play and, fortunately, we got the last chance."

Florida was 2-for-5 on the power play after being 0-for-17 in its previous four games. Pittsburgh was 2-for-7.

"The way things were going the last six or seven games, we might have felt like that was it," Jokinen said of the Crosby goal. "But we had a good shift right after the goal, drew a penalty, got a power play and capitalized."

After Erik Christensen gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead by scoring on a four-minute power play in the first period created by Branislav Mezei's double minor for high sticking, Roberts tied it with his seventh goal on a tap-in of Nathan Horton's shot.

Jozef Stumpel then gave Florida its first lead since Nov. 24, a 6-4 loss to Ottawa, steering the puck past Thibault from the side of the net following Salei's pass from the point. Thibault started after Marc-Andre Fleury lost on consecutive nights to the Devils and Islanders last weekend.

With Auld stopping 25 of 27 shots, Florida won for the 13th time in 14 games against Pittsburgh since March 2002.

Penguins coach Michel Therrien altered his lineup, making rookie Jordan Staal a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career. Staal has seven goals, but none in the last seven games. Also, forward Ryan Malone played his first game since breaking his arm Oct. 21 and defenceman Alain Nasreddine played 13 minutes after being called up from the minors.

"Some of those guys who think the effort is there, it's not," Therrien said.

Notes: Florida's losing streak included a scoreless run of nearly 219 minutes. ... Florida is 3-8-4 on the road, Pittsburgh is 6-6-3 at home. ... The Panthers are 6-0-1 in their last seven in Pittsburgh. ... The crowd of 12,511 was the Penguins' smallest at home this season. Their previous four home games were sellouts.



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