TAMPA -- The Penguins defeated Tampa Bay, 6-3, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum tonight.
The victory was the Penguins' third in a row and raised their record to 31-10. They have a five-point lead over second-place Montreal in the Eastern Conference.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who missed his fifth consecutive game while recovering from surgery to repair a broken jaw, watched the game from management's box in the press box.
Defenseman Kris Letang, who had missed the previous six games because of a toe injury, returned to the Penguins' lineup and took a regular shift, as well manning the point on the No. 1 power-play unit and killing penalties.
The Penguins started a bit slowly, as Tampa Bay got the first three shots of the game, but then scored twice in less than two minutes.
Jussi Jokinen gave them a 1-0 lead at 4:07, when the rebound of a Brenden Morrow shot ricocheted off his right skate and into the net behind goalie Ben Bishop.
Pascal Dupuis received the second assist on that goal, and scored one of his own at 6:02, as he drove to the net and stuck a Tyler Kennedy rebound under the cross bar for his 20th of the season. Matt Niskanen received the second assist.
Tampa Bay sliced the Penguins' lead to 2-1 16 minutes into the period, as Teddy Purcell got a cross-ice feed from Steven Stamkos and steered the puck past goalie Tomas Vokoun from the right hash.
Jarome Iginla hammered a slap shot that apparently deflected off Chris Kunitz before sailing past Bishop during a power play at 1:48 of the second period to restore the Penguins' two-goal advantage. Kunitz scored 48 seconds after Tampa Bay winger Ryan Malone, a former Penguin, was penalized for high-sticking.
Iginla and Letang got assists.
Tampa Bay countered quickly with a man-advantage goal of its own, however, as Brett Connolly beat Vokoun high on the glove side from inside the right circle.
Evgeni Malkin put the Penguins in front, 4-2, with an excellent individual effort at 84 seconds into the third.
He stole a pass just outside the Tampa Bay blue line, carried the puck down the right side then beat Bishop from near the bottom of the circle for his eighth of the season.
Jokinen then put the game out of reach at 4:45, as he deflected a Douglas Murray shot by Bishop while standing with his back to the net.
It was Jokinen's third goal since being acquired from Carolina last Wednesday.
Tanner Glass capped the victory -- and picked up his first point of the season -- when he converted a Jokinen rebound during a five-on-three power play at 16:40. Jokinen's assist was his fifth point since joining the Penguins.
Purcell scored a power-play goal with 18 seconds left in regulation to give the Penguins their final margin of victory.
The Penguins' three-game road trip will conclude Saturday night, when they take on Florida at 7:38 at the BB&T Center.
First Published April 12, 2013 2:30 AM