SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 13: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Stephen Weiss #9 of the Florida Panthers battle behind the net on January 13, 2012 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Florida still leads the Southeast Division by the slimmest of margins, but they need on-ice results to maintain their hold on a playoff spot. The Penguins host the game tonight, defenders of a seven-game win streak.
The Panthers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. This is the final meeting of four between the two this season. Floirda lost 4-2 back in October, won 3-2 in November, and lost 4-1 in January. Florida is 15-14-4 on the road, the Penguins are 22-8-2 at home.
For the Panthers, this is the second game of a two game back-to-back Pennsylvania series. They were shutout last night, 5-0 by the Philadelphia Flyers, and return to the Bank Atlantic Center on Sunday to open up a four game homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The last time the two played was January 13th in Pittsburgh. The Penguins won, 4-1 behind excellent goaltending by Marc Andre Fleury, who stopped 25 of 26 shots for the game. Steve Sullivan (8), Evgeni Malkin (18), Tyler Kennedy (6), and James Neal (22) lit the lamp for Pittsburgh. Michal Repik (2) tallied the lone goal for the Cats. Scott Clemmensen allowed all four goals on 41 shots in the loss. Veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski talked about Clemmensen's efforts later,
"He played a great game for us," defenseman Ed Jovanovski said of Clemmensen. "When they're coming in waves and waves at you and shot after shot after shot, one of them is bound to go in. He definitely held the fort for us in the first period maybe giving us an opportunity in here to regroup and have some sort of push-back. It wasn't there."
Penguins @ Panthers 01/13/12 (via NHLVideo)
Florida dropped their other matchup in Pennsylvania last night, 5-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers. Brayden Schenn (9), Matt Read (19), Scott Hartnell (32), Jaromir Jagr (18), and Eric Wellwood (3) all scored on Jose Theodore, who made a total of 30 saves against five goals. Ilya Bryzgalov held the fort for the Flyers, stopping all 25 Florida shots for his 27th career shutout, and fourth of the season. Panthers coach Kevin Dineen spoke about composure afterwards,
"It's a tough road game for us," he said. "Composure is the main issue for us right now. We've got quality veterans out there, but at the end of the day when you get them into games like this, you have to put 60 minutes in and that is something that we have not done in the last few weeks and we are going to need to do that successfully."
Panthers @ Flyers 03/08/12 (via NHLVideo)
The Penguins are the owners of a current seven game winning streak, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2 on Wednesday. After falling two goals behind in the second period to Phil Kessel (34) and Carl Gunnarsson (4), the Penguins rallied with two goals from Pascual Dupuis (16, 17), and Jordan Staal (22) for the win. Brad Thiessen got the win between the pipes for Pittsburgh, stopping 22 of 24 shots, while Jonas Gustavsson allowed three goals on 33 shots for the loss. Defenseman Matt Niskanen spoke about the Pittsburgh comeback later,
"That's not that common in the League to be able to come back like that; teams are usually pretty good at holding those leads," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We just do a really good job of sticking with it, staying aggressive. We don't have to change a whole lot when we're down. We just keep playing the same game. Guys are committed to making that strong push."
Maple Leafs @ Penguins 03/07/12 (via NHLVideo)
Pittsburgh Penguins: 40-21-5, 85 points, second Atlantic Division, fourth Eastern Conference, fifth NHL, on pace for 106 points. Last five: W-W-W-W-W. Playoff odds: 99.99%