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Insider Only Post-Game: Pens put Panthers away early in 5-2 win

Post-Game: Pittsburgh 5 – Florida 2
With talk of tonight being a trap game, the Florida Panthers battled hard for sixty minutes but the superior team came out on top and the Penguins put the game away in the first period.
Pittsburgh jumped on the Panthers early, getting 1st period goals from Mark Letestu (7), Sidney Crosby (28) and Matt Cooke (7), taking a commanding 3-1 lead just 10:57 into the 1st period.
The Penguins peppered Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun who was pulled in the 1st after surrendering 3 goals on 14 shots. Pittsburgh outshot Florida 17-8 in the 1st period and pushed the play offensively.
Out of the gates, the Penguins were the quicker team to the puck, which led to Mark Letestu’s opening goal as Chris Conner won a puck battle on the wall and moved the puck up to Tyler Kennedy who found a streaking Mark Letestu down the right side who showed great patience in beating Vokoun for his 7th goal of the season.
Leading 3-1, after goals from Letestu, Crosby and Cooke, Ben Lovejoy pushed the Penguins lead to 4-1, tallying his 1st career NHL goal at the 6:19 mark of the second period. Lovejoy also had his first NHL fight in the 1st period, throwing down with Florida’s Shawn Matthias.
It was a night of first for Lovejoy who appeared in his 31st career game. Lovejoy collected his 1st goal, 1st fight and earning the games No. 1 star.
“He’s {Ben Lovejoy} a guy who works really hard and was happy to see him get that, ” Crosby said. “He played a great game, stepping up to fight there and scoring a big goal for us. As the game went on they kept pushing and that goal became pretty important for us.”
Lovejoy was hit with a puck in the face late in the game but is believed to be okay. He received 11 stitches after the game.

Pascal Dupuis added an empty net for Pittsburgh, his 8th goal of the season.
Brent Johnson made 20 saves to record his 8th win of the season but Johnson did not play in the third period due to a groin injury. Marc Andre Fleury made 15 saves in relief.
The Penguins appeared to relax after jumping out to their big lead but they’re not going to play a 60-minute type of game every night. Turnovers were a concern in the game but Pittsburgh was clearly not looking ahead to Thursday night’s showdown with the Capitals and put an inferior team away in the first period.
The big story of the night was Sidney Crosby who matched the second-longest NHL scoring streak in 18 years at 22 games with his first-period goal in the win.
Crosby scored for the 28th time this season with a booming slap shot from the top of the left circles. It was a perfectly placed shot as Crosby’s continues to evolve into a premier goal scorer.
Crosby’s streak matched Dany Heatley’s in 2005 as the longest since the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Mats Sundin of the Quebec Nordiques had points in 30 consecutive games during the 1992-93 season.
Evgeni Malkin had an assist in the game and has collected 9 points in 4 games since returning from injury.
The Penguins were balanced in getting first period goals from members of their top-3 lines in Letestu, Crosby and Cooke.
The Penguins improved to 7-1 this season against the Southeast division. They will look to improve that record to 8-1 tomorrow night in Washington. Pittsburgh kept their focus and did not look ahead by any means.
Pittsburgh (23-10-2-48pts) moves 1 point behind the Flyers for the NHL points lead.
Defenseman Kris Letang played an extremely physical game, leading the Penguins 5 hits.
Sidney Crosby was the games No. 2 star and Mark Letestu earned the games No. 3 star. Letestu played a strong overall game, scoring a goal and going 8-for-11 in the faceoff circle.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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