Penguins top Panthers in overtime, 3-2

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SUNRISE, Fla. -- You might have heard that the Penguins' power play has struggled a bit lately.

It has been mentioned once or twice in the newspaper, and there might even have been a couple of references on talk shows and messsage boards.

Just a few.

But if a team is going to struggle when it has the extra man, as the Penguins did when they went through an 0-for-eternity stretch recently, it has to be particularly selective about when it gets its goals.

And there's no better time for one than overtime, as Sidney Crosby reminded everyone with his winner in the Penguins' 3-2 victory against Florida at the BankAtlantic Center last night.

"It adds a little more drama to the story," coach Dan Bylsma said.

Crosby produced the final chapter in the story of this victory by knocking an Evgeni Malkin rebound past Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun at 3:07 of overtime after Panthers forward Nathan Horton had received a double-minor for high-sticking Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

"A tough break for him," Crosby said. "But a good break for us."

A linesman made the penalty call, and Crosby made sure the Panthers paid for it with his third winner of the season.

"I had an open net, but I think it kind of went over [Vokoun] somehow, or by his arm," Crosby said. "The puck was bouncing. I didn't put it through the net by any means, but it got there."

The Penguins put the game into overtime by getting goals from Pascal Dupuis (4:49) and Mike Rupp (17:28) in the third period, after Horton and Keith Ballard had staked the Panthers to a 2-0 lead.

Indeed, this was the second time this season the Penguins defeated Florida after spotting it a 2-0 advantage.

"It's not a recipe we draw up," Bylsma said. "You don't want to have to come from behind, but a lot of things we did tonight allowed us to have a strong third period."

Indeed, the Penguins got the puck behind the Panthers' defense and on Vokoun, who finished with 42 saves, for most of the evening, culminating in a 16-3 edge in shots during the final 20 minutes of regulation.

"Even though we weren't 100 percent on our game the first two periods, we still did things to set up the third," Rupp said. "When we played the way we can play, like we did in the third, we're going to win hockey games."

The Penguins weren't instantly rewarded for the things they were doing right, however.

Florida got the only goal of the opening period when Horton took a cross-ice feed from Stephen Weiss and flipped a shot past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from near the bottom of the left circle at 17:33, and Ballard put the Panthers ahead by two at 10:21 of the second by beating Fleury from near the left hash.

Dupuis finally got the Penguins on the board when he converted an Orpik rebound, and Rupp put the game into overtime by knocking in a feed from Malkin, who set him up from behind the goal line.

How Malkin got the puck to him wasn't immediately clear, although Rupp said he never doubted that it would happen.

"I was anticipating him doing it because that's [Malkin]," he said. "Why wouldn't he?"

Perhaps because there's at least a chance that Malkin got the puck to him mostly by accident.

"I think [Malkin] tried to go off the back of the net to himself, and it kind of squirted out and Rupp was standing in front of the net, planted on top of the crease," Bylsma said.

Which is at least one part of the equation, it should be noted, that wasn't an accident.

"I just figured, 'Stay here,' because I'm in a good spot," Rupp said. "When both [defensemen] on each post saw Evgeni Malkin behind the net with the puck, they got a little mesmerized. They tried to go after him, and left me alone in front."

An understandable move, perhaps, but not necessarily a wise one because Rupp, who had three goals all of last season, already has five in 2009-10.

That got the Penguins into overtime, and Horton's high-stick put them in position to win it and finish their road trip with back-to-back 3-2 victories after a 6-2 loss in Ottawa Thursday.

"We left Ottawa with a bad taste in our mouth, on the scoreboard," Bylsma said. "But we rebounded with a very good game in Atlanta and tonight was one where we stuck with it. ... It's great to get two out of three on the road."


Dave Molinari can be reached at dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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