The Panthers knew no one gave them much of a shot before Monday’s game against the Penguins.
But just about everything went right for the Panthers as they rolled to a 5-1 win over the Eastern Conference’s top team.
“This is a tough place to play,” coach Peter Horachek said. “It’s good for our guys to know they can beat the good teams if you prepare and play 60 minutes. It’s just one game, but it’s good for our guys. I’m proud of them.”
Florida, which hadn’t won here in over five years, got great performances from Drew Shore (two goals), Jesse Winchester (three primary assists), Mike Weaver (plus-5) and backup goalie Scott Clemmensen (35 saves) to put an end to the Penguins’ franchise record 13-game home-winning streak.
The Penguins had won eight in a row and 11 of 12 at home against the Panthers. Florida took the season series by winning two of three.
“We wanted to treat this game as a playoff game,” said Shore, who scored Florida’s first two goals to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead heading into the third.
“We wanted to make a statement to ourselves. We knew they would come hard. It feels good to get a win.”
The Penguins hadn’t lost to the Panthers on home ice since they played in the now-demolished Igloo across the street.
How long ago was that? That game, on Jan. 3, 2009, is best known for Sidney Crosby jumping the diminutive Brett McLean in the faceoff circle and spending much of the day in the penalty box.
Scorers for the Panthers that day were Richard Zednik, Bryan McCabe, Nathan Horton and Ville Peltonen.
Horton was traded away four years ago; Zednik and Peltonen left the NHL after that season. McCabe is in Florida’s front office.
“I thought our guys played pretty well from the beginning,” Horachek said. “We got a lot of contributions from a lot of people.”
Shore got the scoring going for the Panthers as Florida was killing a penalty. The Panthers haven’t given up a power-play goal since Dec. 28 — a streak of 26 kills.
After Clemmensen blocked a shot, Shore picked up the puck and went on a 2-on-1 break with Marcel Goc. Shore kept the puck and beat Marc-Andre Fleury (23 saves) to make it 1-0.
“Everything came together for us,” said Clemmensen, who got the assist on that one. “This is a tough league. But [Monday], everything clicked. I got an assist. That’s when you know everything is going your way.
“A guy with my puck-handling skills doesn’t get an assist very often.”
Shore made it 2-0 in the second when he took a Winchester pass from behind the net and scored. Dmitry Kulikov made it 3-0 early in the third when he jumped on a fat rebound and wrapped the puck around Fleury.
Pittsburgh cut its deficit when Matt Niskanen scored at 5:11 of the third, but the Panthers put it away when Jonathan Huberdeau scored his first goal since Dec. 5 on a wacky play that led to a review considered the longest in Panthers history.
Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad crashed the net with Huberdeau being hit from behind and thrown into the goal cage — along with the puck. Moments after the goal was allowed, Shawn Matthias made it 5-1 on yet another slick feed from Winchester.
“It feels really good, but this is a big win for our team,” Huberdeau said. “We needed to make a statement. We know we can beat the best team in the league. We just need to get on a streak and get back into playoff position.”
Starter Tim Thomas took his first game off in weeks after getting hit with a flu bug he said had run through his family. Thomas, who had started eight games in a row, is expected to be back in net Tuesday night in Buffalo.
“I feel a lot better today than I did [Sunday],” Thomas said after a robust workout Monday morning.