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Penguins 5, Panthers 1

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Despite being badly outshot, the Pittsburgh Penguins made the most of their opportunities and defeated the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Saturday night at the BB&T Center.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin finished with a goal and three assists. He has four goals and 13 assists in his past eight games.

The Penguins, who lead the Metropolitan Division, won their third straight game and also avenged a surprising 6-3 loss to Florida on Oct. 11 -- the Panthers' home opener.

Florida, in next-to-last place in the Atlantic Division, has lost two straight and four of its past five games. The Panthers outshot the Penguins 40-22.

Rookie goalie Jeff Zatkoff (4-2) got the win as Penguins starter Marc-Andre Fleury was rested.

The loss went to Tim Thomas (6-9-1), who made his 11th straight start for Florida. Thomas was replaced after two periods by backup goalie Scott Clemmensen.

The Panthers dominated the opening 10 minutes -- outshooting the Penguins 7-1 -- but all they got out of it was a scoreless draw.

Pittsburgh then scored two goals within a minute -- though neither was a work of art.

After Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was whistled for tripping, Pittsburgh needed just 34 seconds to convert that mistake into a power-play goal.

Chris Kunitz mostly fanned on a shot but got enough of the puck to have it slowly trickle past Thomas for a 1-0 lead. It was Kunitz's 14th goal of the season, and the assists went to Malkin and left winger James Neal.

Thirty-one seconds later, Penguins center Joe Vitale had his first goal of the season on a bad-angle shot that was shoved just a couple of inches past the line. The goal stood after a video review and the Penguins had a 2-0 lead.

Pittsburgh increased its lead to 3-0 on a more traditional goal as defenseman Olli Maatta rushed up ice on the left wing before passing in tight quarters to Malkin, who made a nifty move -- backhand to forehand -- and scored his seventh goal of the season.

The Panthers thought they made it 3-1 on a play that started with center Aleksander Barkov and right winger Brad Boyes battling for the puck on the boards behind Zatkoff. Panthers left winger Sean Bergenheim finally got the puck and tried to stuff it past Zatkoff. The rebound went in off Boyes, but the goal was negated when it was ruled that he kicked it in.

In the second period, the Panthers finally converted on their fourth power-play chance of the game. After Kunitz was sent off for hooking, center Jonathan Huberdeau raced up the ice and dished to right winger Scottie Upshall, who shifted to his backhand and beat Zatkoff on the near side to make it 3-1.

But Pittsburgh made it 4-1 just 29 seconds later when Malkin made a clever pass from behind the net to Neal, who did not miss for his eighth goal of the season.

Malkin helped make it 5-1 with 13:50 left in the game, stealing a pass and setting up Jussi Jokinen, who beat Clemmensen high to the glove side. It was Jokinen's ninth goal of the season.

NOTES: Panthers C Jesse Winchester (bruised hip) returned to the lineup after missing three games. ... Panthers D Matt Gilroy (lower-body injury) and LW Tomas Kopecky (upper-body injury) sat out. ... Panthers D Mike Mottau and RW Krys Barch were healthy scratches. ... Several Penguins are on injured reserve and expected to be out long term: G Tomas Vokoun (blood clots), D Paul Martin (leg), D Rob Scuderi (ankle), LW Tanner Glass (hand) and LW Beau Bennett (upper body). ... The Penguins' healthy scratches were C Zach Sill and D Robert Bortuzzo. ... Panthers G Tim Thomas is one of six goalies in the running to make the USA Olympic team. The others are Ryan Miller of Buffalo, Cory Schneider of New Jersey, Ben Bishop of Tampa Bay, Jimmy Howard of Detroit and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles. The roster will be announced Jan. 1. ... Up next for the Penguins is Tuesday's game at the New York Islanders, the last of Pittsburgh's three-game trip. ... Next up for Florida is Tuesday's home game against Ottawa.
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