The Penguins' Craig Adams and the Panthers' Shawn Matthias fight for the puck as referee Darren Gibbs gets caught between them during the second period.
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
The Penguins' Beau Bennett and the Panthers' Drew Shore fight for the puck during the second period.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Penguins defeated Florida, 3-1, at the BB&T Center tonight.
The victory raised their record to 32-10 and, coupled with losses by Montreal and Boston, shaved their magic number for clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference to eight against the Canadiens and seven against the Bruins.
The Penguins played without center Evgeni Malkin, who is believed to have a minor shoulder injury as well as an obvious sunburn.
The team was adamant that the sunburn played no part in the decision to hold Malkin out of the game, and characterized the reason for his absence as an "upper-body injury."
One Penguins official said Malkin would have been in the lineup if it had been a playoff game and that he should play when Montreal visits Consol Energy Center Wednesday at 7:08 p.m.
Malkin took part in the game-day skate, but he did not join his teammates for the pre-game warmups.
Jussi Jokinen took his place between wingers Chris Kunitz and Jarome Iginla.
Defenseman Kris Letang gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 14:49, when his slap shot from the left point sailed through traffic and past Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom.
Beau Bennett and Brenden Morrow received assists on the goal, Letang's fourth of the season.
Morrow made it 2-0 at 18:27, banking a shot from the right side of the crease off Markstrom and into the net for his eighth. Assists went to Joe Vitale and Bennett, the latter of whom recorded his first multiple-point game in the NHL. Panthers winger Scottie Upshall cut the Penguins' advantage to 2-1 at 4:10 of the second period, jamming a shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury during a scramble around the crease.
Neither team scored until Morrow hit an empty net with 20.5 seconds left in regulation to guarantee that the Penguins' record when leading after two periods would rise to 17-0.