PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It did not come easy, but the Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to eight games with a 2-1 shootout win over the Florida Panthers Friday night.
Steve Sullivan tied the game in the third period, while James Neal and Evgeni Malkin scored in the shootout to pull the Penguins within four points of the New York Rangers.
New York is currently leading both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with 91 points, but have lost three straight. The Penguins have two games left against New York this season, so the division crown could still be within reach.
It would seem fitting that the Penguins won for the eighth time this season when trailing after two periods to run their current winning streak to eight games.
According to the Penguins’ official website, the team is 8-16-2 when trailing after two periods this season and the eight wins are tied for the most in the league with Tampa Bay.
The Panthers outshot the Penguins 12-6 in the first period, but no one lit the lamp. However, that would change in the second period.
Wojtek Wolski ripped a shot wide of the net, which caromed off the end boards and out the other side. Tomas Fleischmann was the recipient of the fortunate bounce off the end boards and easily tucked the puck behind Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Panthers up 1-0 at 7:17 of the second period.
The goal seemed to wake the Penguins up a little, as they looked much stronger in the second half of the period. While they outshot the Panthers 15-11 in the period, they were unable to solve Jose Theodore.
Early in the third period, the Penguins capitalized on a turnover in the neutral zone to tie the game.
Jordan Staal took control of the puck near his own blue line and fired a cross-ice pass to spring Steve Sullivan for a breakaway.
Sullivan moved in and fired a backhander, which found its way through Theodore and trickled over the line for his 14th goal of the season.
Later in the period, Pascal Dupuis appeared to have given the Penguins a 2-1 lead, but the play was overturned after a review.
Dupuis’ shot glanced off the post, off of Theodore’s glove and bounced toward the goal line. Initially, the referee called it a goal on the ice, but television replays showed that Theodore appeared to have pulled the puck back before it fully crossed the line.
The game would remain tied through the rest of regulation and a five-minute overtime period before going to a shootout.
Neal was up first for the Penguins and fired a quick shot over Theodore’s glove to put Pittsburgh up 1-0 in the shootout.
Wolski took Florida’s first shot and tried to go high to the blocker side on Fleury, but the shot just ticked off the blocker and deflected away.
Malkin was the second shooter for Pittsburgh. He moved in with speed, put on the brakes and fired a shot low to the glove side to beat Theodore and put Pittsburgh up 2-0.
Mikael Samuelsson had to score to prolong the shootout, but Fleury’s poke check attempt forced him to change his shot at the last second. The puck dinged off the outside of the cage, giving the Penguins the extra point in the standings.
Fleury stopped 28 shots for his 36th win of the season. His career high of 40 wins was set back in 2006-07.
The Penguins will now look to keep the winning streak going when they play host to the Boston Bruins Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice