Brenden Morrow (9) had two goals and an assist to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins (32-10-0, 64 pts) to a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
Beau Bennett added two assists and Kris Letang (4) also scored for the Penguins who won for the 19th time in 21 games. Bennett’s two assists marked his first multi-point game of his career. Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves to earn his 21st win of the season.
The Penguins played without center Evgeni Malkin who was a late scratch due to what head coach Dan Bylsma is calling a “re-aggravated, nagging injury.” It’s believed Malkin is dealing with a shoulder injury or that’s said to be what the Penguins want out there.
With Malkin out the Penguins reconfigured their lines that included Pascal Dupuis centering Brenden Morrow and Beau Bennett on the second line.
Joe Vitale replaced Malkin in the lineup and picked up an assist on Morrow’s first period goal at 18:28, won a team-high 13 faceoffs and had 5 hits on the night.
For the Panthers, Scottie Upshall scored and Jacob Markstrom made 19 saves in the loss.
MORROW SETTLING IN, PENGUINS SHOW SANDPAPER, GRIT IN THEIR GAME
Two key storylines to emerge on the Penguins three game road trip: Newcomers such as Brenden Morrow are settling in and the Penguins are now built to play a rugged game when they need to as the sandpaper and grit GM Ray Shero added at the trade deadline really showed up tonight and Thursday night vs Tampa Bay.
The Penguins are now suddenly a much tougher team to play against and that was something Shero had to address at the deadline and he did. There seems to be a domino effect all the way down as players such as Beau Bennett not known for his physical play is even being a physical presence out there.
The Penguins were credited with 40 hits, lead by Craig Adams and Joe Vitale who had a team-high 5 hits. The 4th line of Tanner Glass, Vitale and Adams combined for 14 hits vs the Panthers.
Tonight Brenden Morrow stepped up his game again with 2 goals and an assist, leading the way for the Penguins offensively. Since the Rangers game last Friday night, Morrow has been one of the Penguins best forwards and a consistent physical presence on the forecheck and in around the net. He’s showing some signs of being that type of Gary Roberts addition scouts felt prior to the trade deadline that this team had been lacking.
Morrow has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last five games.
PENGUINS INCH CLOSER TO NO. 1 SEED
A Penguins win tonight and losses by the Canadiens and Bruins has the Penguins now seven points ahead of Montreal and eight points ahead of Boston.
EASTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS
1. *Pittsburgh Penguins – 6 Games Remaining | 32-10-0, 64 pts
2. *Montreal Canadiens – 7 Games Remaining | 26-10-5, 57 pts
3. *Washington Capitals – 6 Games Remaining | 23-17-2, 48 pts
4. Boston Bruins – 7 Games Remaining | 26-11-4, 56 pts
5. Toronto Maple Leafs – 7 Games Remaining | 23-13-5, 51 pts
6. Ottawa Senators – 7 Games Remaining | 21-14-6, 48 pts
7. New York Islanders – 6 Games Remaining | 21-16-5, 47 pts
8. New York Rangers – 7 Games Remaining | 21-16-4, 46 pts
9. Winnipeg Jets – 6 Games Remaining | 21-19-2, 44 pts
10. New Jersey Devils – 7 Games Remaining | 15-16-10, 40 pts
11. Buffalo Sabres – 6 Games Remaining | 17-19-6, 40 pts
12: Philadelphia Flyers – 7 Games Remaining | 17-21-3, 37 pts
13. Tampa Bay Lightning – 7 Games Remaining | 17-21-3, 37 pts
14. Carolina Hurricanes – 7 Games Remaining | 17-22-2, 36 pts
15. Florida Panthers – 7 Games Remaining | 13-22-6, 32 pts