Panthers can’t cool off red-hot Penguins in home loss
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Jeff Zatkoff was glad to get another chance to face the Florida Panthers.
Evgeni Malkin scored a goal and had three assists, and Zatkoff stopped a season-high 39 shots, including 15 in the first period, to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers, 5-1 on Saturday night.
Earlier this season, Zatkoff made his first career start for Pittsburgh in Florida’s home opener, a 6-3 loss on Oct. 11.
“It’s nice to get a second crack at these guys,” Zatkoff said. “You always want to play well, especially against a team that put up six on you the last time. I know that wasn’t my best the first time around. To be able to come back and get that second opportunity is nice.”
Jussi Jokinen, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Joe Vitale also scored goals for Pittsburgh, which won its third straight game.
Zatkoff’s play impressed Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
“I can reference his first game in this building, but it’s been a while between those starts,” Bylsma said. “Tonight I thought he was very good, came up big for us on numerous occasions. I think our best player (was) Jeff Zatkoff.”
Malkin has four goals and 13 assists during an eight-game point streak. Malkin has 35 points this season, one behind Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL.
“I’d love to see them both at the top at the end of the year,” Bylsma said.
Neal also had an assist and has 13 points in his past seven games.
Scottie Upshall scored for Florida and Tim Thomas allowed four goals on 13 shots. Thomas was replaced by Scott Clemmensen to start the third period. Clemmensen made eight saves.
Thomas also gave up four goals in the Panthers’ previous game, a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Florida has lost four of its past five games.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot, myself included,” Thomas said. “That first goal shot the big toe off, and a couple of the other goals we shot a couple of the other toes off. That’s happening on a relatively consistent basis.”
The goalie change didn’t slow down the Penguins. Jokinen took a pass from Malkin in the slot and rifled it over the glove of Clemmensen at 6:10 of the third to make it 5-1.
Trailing 3-0, the Panthers got on the board on Upshall’s power-play goal in the second. Upshall brought the puck in from the left side and beat Zatkoff with a backhand at 17:53.
The Penguins got it right back when Neal scored just 29 seconds later. Neal’s wrist shot from low in the right circle whistled past Thomas to make it 4-1.
The Penguins stretched their lead to 3-0 on Malkin’s goal in the second. Malkin brought the puck through the Panthers zone and beat Thomas on the left side with a backhand shot at 7:23.
The Panthers had a goal disallowed on review in the second. Sean Bergenheim pushed the puck to the front of the crease and it was ruled that it was kicked in by Brad Boyes.
“If you get 40 shots a game, you’d think that you’d try to keep things close,” Upshall said. “He (Zatkoff) made some great saves.”
The Penguins scored two goals in 32 seconds in the first period.
During a power play, Neal passed from the left side to Kunitz in the slot. Thomas fell down and Kunitz found the open net at 10:45 to make it 1-0. It was the third goal in two games for Kunitz.
Jayson Megna shot from the slot and Vitale slid the rebound across the goal line at 11:17 for a 2-0 lead.
NOTES: Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun, on injured reserve since Sept. 30 following surgery for a blood clot, spoke with reporters between periods and said he still hopes to resume his career. … Bergenheim played in his 400th NHL game. … Florida C Jesse Winchester returned after missing three games with a lower body injury.