PITTSBURGH - Midway through the season, Sidney Crosby would have been the runaway choice for the NHL's most valuable player. In a pregame ceremony Sunday, Marc-Andre Fleury was honored as Pittsburgh's team MVP.
In the absence of Crosby, the reinvented Penguins continued to rely upon Fleury to keep winning games.
Alex Kovalev and James Neal scored in the shootout, Marc-Andre Fleury had 37 saves and Pittsburgh set an NHL record by winning via shootout for the fourth consecutive game, defeating the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Sunday.
"We're in a good streak right now getting some wins that way," Fleury said.
Ben Lovejoy scored in regulation for the Penguins, who moved within two points of Philadelphia in the race for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference leads.
The Flyers, who played later Sunday, visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Crosby missed his 35th consecutive game because of a concussion, although he skated and stickhandled for about 45 minutes Sunday morning and is thought to be gradually getting closer to a return to game action.
An offensive juggernaut with their captain, the Penguins have turned to defense to stay near the top of the standings. Pittsburgh improved to 13-1-5 in one-goal games without Crosby - 6-2 in shootouts, including winning the past five. They were fifth in the league in goals at 3.2 per game when Crosby was injured but entered Sunday averaging about a goal a game less since - 26th in the league in that stretch.
Pittsburgh has won its past three games despite scoring only two goals.
"Some games you need to do it 1-0," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I'm not sure if it's a huge concern, but I don't think it's the strength of our team right now.
"We don't coach differently and say, 'Hold on and hopefully we can get the extra one (point) in the shootout.'"
Fleury set a new team record for time elapsed between goals allowed (150 minutes, 14 seconds). He also stopped Mike Santorelli and Niclas Bergfors in the shootout.
"He's our MVP," said Bylsma, "and I think he deserves to be mentioned as league MVP with his play this year."
Ryan Carter scored for the Panthers, who have lost five straight.
After an unsuccessful try by Kris Letang in the shootout, Kovalev made multiple moves to his forehand, banging a shot off the left post into the net behind Florida backup goalie Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen - who entered the game for the start of overtime after Tomas Vokoun left due to back tightness - was beat by a Neal wrist shot to end the game.
"It would definitely be nice to win it in regulation and not go into overtime every game, but two points is two points," Kovalev said. "We set the goal to catch Philadelphia and get first in the conference and that is what we are doing right now. Today wasn't the best game that we played, but we got two points."
The Penguins, who tied Washington for second in the conference with 98 points, have won six of seven. They clinched a playoff berth when Carolina lost Saturday night.
It was an NHL-high 47th one-goal game for Florida, tying the team record. The Panthers fell to 18-18-11 in such instances.
Carter scored with 4:28 left in the second period, snapping Fleury's franchise-record shutout streak. Early in that period, he bested Jocelyn Thibault's record of 136:13 set in 2006-07.