Penguins defeat Panthers, 5-2


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The list of Penguins players likely to pick up a hat trick is relatively extensive. Make it a Gordie Howe hat trick ---- a goal, an assist and a fight -- and the list likely shrinks some.

Either way, you would have to get pretty deep into the roster to come up with Ben Lovejoy.

The second-year defenseman fell an assist short of the latter type Wednesday night in a 5-2 win against Florida at Consol Energy Center, but came up with a novel three-pronged way to get attention.

Is there a name for a goal, a fight and a nasty gash across the cheek?

That was the tally for Lovejoy on a night that ended 3:46 before regulation did when he took a shot by Florida's Bryan McCabe to the face. He had a long cut full of stitches on his left cheek after the game.


Today

Game: Penguins at Washington Capitals, 7:08 p.m. today, Verizon Center.

TV, radio, Internet: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9), www.penguins.nhl.com.

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Michal Neuvirth for Capitals.

Penguins: Were 0-0-2 at Verizon Center last season after being 6-2 in previous eight visits. ... Fleury is 6-1 in his past seven decisions on road. ... Are 5-1 in second game when playing on consecutive days.

Capitals: Have gone 1-3-2 in past six home games. ... C Nicklas Backstrom does not have goal in 10 games. ... Are 9-1-1 when being outshot.

Of note: LW Alexander Ovechkin does not have goal on the Capitals' past 88 power plays.


"I'm not sure you'd pick Ben Lovejoy as a Gordie Howe hat trick type of guy, but unfortunately he didn't get to finish the third period to get the chance," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

While Lovejoy would appear to be fine unless there is severe swelling -- Bylsma said a scar is likely to be his reminder -- backup goaltender Brent Johnson came out of the game worse, with a groin injury that is expected to keep him out of the game tonight at Washington.

Johnson gave up a goal to Stephen Weiss on the Panthers' first shot, one that squirted between Johnson's glove and body at 2:43 of the first period to tie the game, but then he stopped the next 20 he faced.

He was replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury for the start of the third period.

Bylsma said he was not sure when Johnson got hurt, although it might have been when he got hit by Florida's Evgeny Dadonov late in second period on what landed Dadonov a goaltender interference penalty.

The Penguins likely will call up John Curry or Brad Thiessen from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back up Fleury tonight against the Capitals.

Chris Kunitz was the only Penguin with two points, both assists, and 10 other players picked up a point. One of them was Johnson, who assisted on Sidney Crosby's first-period, go-ahead goal.

"I've had a couple of chances actually to get goalies assists and haven't done a good job of it this year, so I'm happy he got one there," said Crosby, who scored at 7:44 on a slap shot to make it 2-1 and extend his points streak to 22 games.

That gave Crosby a tie for the longest streak since the end of the 2004-05 lockout. Dany Heatley had a 22-gamer Oct. 5-Nov. 29, 2005. The last time Crosby didn't have a point was Nov. 3, when the Penguins had a sloppy, 5-2 loss at Dallas.

Matt Cooke added a goal on a turning shot from the slot at 10:57 to stake the Penguins to a 3-1 lead after the first period. His goal chased Tomas Vokoun from the net. He was replaced by Scott Clemmensen.

Lovejoy acquitted himself fairly well in a fight with Florida's Shawn Matthias following Cooke's goal, then racked up his first NHL goal at 6:19 of the second period when he intercepted a clearing attempt off the right-wing boards and threw a shot toward the net. It bounced off defenseman Dennis Wideman and past Clemmensen.

"The goal is something you dream of," said Lovejoy, adding that he couldn't come up with a better description because "I'm not that witty."

He had to endure some ribbing from Bylsma in the second intermission about the possibility of a Gordie Howe hat trick. Lovejoy told Bylsma not to get his hopes up.

Florida picked up steam through the second period and played a strong third period, getting a goal from McCabe just after Lovejoy got hurt to close it to 4-2. That, Crosby said, made Lovejoy's goal stand out all the more because it kept the Panthers from getting to within a goal.

Lovejoy usually is the seventh defenseman behind Deryk Engelland -- the definitive fighter of the two -- and was playing in just his 17th game of the season. A hunch by Bylsma perhaps?

"I wish I could claim smarts on that one," Bylsma said.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com .


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