Before the start of the game, Evgeni Malkin was scratched with an upper body injury. The injury may have been sustained two nights before when Malkin took a huge hit into the boards.
With the Penguins forced to play Florida without three of their top skill players, they turned to gritty forwards and punishing defense to grind out a 3-1 win, Saturday night.
Pittsburgh outhit Florida 40-25 and ramped up the physicality as the game went on. Brooks Orpik had a crushing hit along the boards, Chris Kunitz followed by running over another Panthers player moments later, and Pascal Dupuis wrecked Tomas Fleischmann late in the third period.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead 14:49 into the opening period on Kris Letang’s fourth goal of the season. Beau Bennett fed Letang for a shot from the point and the puck beat Jacob Markstrom who appeared to be screened in front by Brenden Morrow.
Morrow would score again just a few minutes later, setup once again by Bennett. The rookie, Bennett, circle behind the net and fed a cross-crease pass to Morrow. The puck bounced off of Morrow’s stick but he was able to recover and bank the biscuit off the backside of Markstrom and in the net.
Scottie Upshall got the Panthers on the board 4:10 into the second frame. After Brian Campbell’s shot rung off the crossbar, Jack Skille went behind the net and fed Upshall who was positioned at the bottom of the left winger circle. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Upshall’s initial shot but the former Philadelphia Flyer skated forward and pounced on his own rebound.
Both teams traded power play chances for the rest of the second period but neither side was able to put up a goal. The Penguins continued to wear down Florida in the third period. Craig Adams and Joe Vitale each finished with five hits while both of Brooks Oprik’s hits were monstrous.
Marc-Andre Fleury had a relatively easy night and was able to make a huge save on Fleischmann who almost scored shorthanded on a breakaway.
With Markstrom coming out of the net Pascal Dupuis took the puck away in the neutral zone and sent a pass of up Brenden Morrow who buried his second goal of the game and ninth of the season.
- Pittsburgh is now 17-0 when leading after two periods.
- Beau Bennett (2 assists) recorded his first multi-point game of his career.
- The Penguins are 24-13-5 in games without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin since 2008 (Stats, Inc).
- Brenden Morrow
- Beau Bennett
- Scottie Upshall
Photo courtesy of NHL.com