Pens’ defense falls apart
SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers broke out of their power-play slump in a big way.
Tomas Kopecky recorded his first career hat trick and Tomas Fleischmann had the go-ahead score for his 100th career goal, lifting the Panthers to a 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
Brian Campbell and Marcel Goc also scored, and Fleischmann added two assists for the Panthers. Scott Clemmensen stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third period after replacing Jose Theodore during the second intermission. Theo-dore stopped 15 of 19 shots through the first and second periods.
The Panthers, who came in with only one power-play goal in their last 24 chances – including 0 for 17 at home – scored four goals with the man advantage, and also broke a five-game home losing streak, winning for just the second time in nine games.
“It’s been a couple of weeks here that we haven’t been able to generate much on the power play, so it was good for our group to go out there,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “I just think confidence, success, breeds success.”
Chris Kunitz, Dustin Jeffrey, Paul Martin and James Neal scored for the Penguins. Mark Andre-Fleury made 12 saves for Pittsburgh and Sidney Crosby had two assists.
Kopecky, who has six goals in his last six games, scored his third of the game on an empty-netter from his own blue line that made the score 6-4 with one minute left. He also had an assist.
“I just tried to get the puck out and tonight it was one of those nights, it was going in,” Kopecky said.
Fleischmann put the Panthers in front 5-4 when his slap shot from the right circle rifled past Fleury at 3:29 of the third. Fleischmann had just come out of the penalty box when he got the puck and had a 2-on-1.
Both teams combined for seven goals in the second period. Trailing 4-1 at the 8:54 mark, the Penguins scored three unanswered goals to tie it heading into the third.
They closed to 4-2 when Jeffrey’s shot trickled through Theodore’s legs at 9:51. Martin’s goal, a slap shot from the right circle, pulled the Penguins to 4-3 at 14:08. Pittsburgh then tied it on a power-play goal by Kunitz with less than a minute left. His shot bounced off the skates of Florida’s Mike Weaver and ricocheted back into the net.
Leading 2-1, the Panthers scored two goals in a 32-second span of the middle period – both with the man advantage. Campbell’s slap shot from the left circle beat Tomas Vokoun on the glove side at 8:22. Goc poked in a loose puck at 8:54, his first goal of the season, to make the score 4-1. Vokoun, who had 18 saves on 22 shots, was then replaced by Fleury.
“It was an onslaught on Tomas, he saw the power play repeatedly and the 5-on-3 went in,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was more of a situation where the team needed a change rather than the goaltender needed a change.”
The Panthers took a 2-1 lead on Kopecky’s second goal. The Penguins had just killed a 5-on-3 power play when Kopecky found a loose puck in front and poked it past Vokoun at 3:22 of the second.
“We have to do a better job of staying out of the box. That’s pretty clear,” Crosby said. “Besides that, we didn’t really deserve to win, even without taking those penalties.”
The Penguins tied it 1-all on Neal’s goal. His shot from well above the top of the right circle got by Theodore 51 seconds into the second period.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the first on a power-play goal by Kopecky. Campbell’s shot from the top of the left circle was blocked by Vokoun but Kopecky grabbed the rebound and swept it in at 13:57.