Jonathan Huberdeau slashed his way down the ice, weaving his way between two Pittsburgh Penguins defenders, as he slid the puck under Kris Letang’s extended stick to Denis Malgin in front of goaltender Matt Murray.
Malgin, quickly inserted in the game moments earlier for Aleksander Barkov, then buried the puck into the back the net with two minutes left in the second period and celebrated with his teammates just beyond the right circle.
A bigger celebration came about a half hour later.
The Panthers shook off a quiet first period to defeat the Penguins 4-2 on Tuesday at the BB&T Center. Florida (4-2-3) has now won three of its past four games and has recorded points in six consecutive contests. The Penguins (6-4-0) have dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Huberdeau added the eventual game-winning goal on a re-direct with 6:18 left in the third period. Frank Vatrano added an empty net goal with 1:03 left.
Noel Acciari opened scoring with 9:06 left in the second period after his deflected shot soared into the air, ricocheted off Murray’s back and landed in the net. Dryden Hunt and Colton Sceviour earned assists on the goal, Acciari’s third of the season. The Penguins responded a minute later with a goal from third-line center Teddy Blueger that slipped past Sergei Bobrovsky.
Malgin’s goal late in the middle period gave the Panthers needed momentum and continued the forward’s recent run of success. Malgin has scored goals in back-to-back games and has tallied four total points (two goals, two assists) over his past five games.
Bobrovsky stopped 22 of 24 shots on goal against him, including a couple big saves late in the first period to keep the game scoreless through the first 20 minutes and nine of 10 shots in the third period to keep the Panthers’ lead intact. Patric Hornqvist cut the Panthers’ lead down to one with 5:35 left in regulation before Vatrano scored his late empty netter.
The Panthers now head on a four-game road trip, starting with the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
The Panthers went into Tuesday’s game without two of their top players in forward Vincent Trocheck (lower body) and defenseman Aaron Ekblad (illness).
Trocheck, who briefly left Saturday’s shootout win over the Nashville Predators in the first period after taking a puck to his right ankle, typically centers the Panthers’ second forward line that includes wingers Brett Connolly and Mike Hoffman. Trocheck did not practice Monday and was not at morning skate Tuesday. He came into Tuesday with a goal and five assists through eight games while averaging the second-most ice time on the team among forwards (19:27) and scored the lone goal in the shootout against the Predators.
Ekblad, typically paired with MacKenzie Weegar as Florida’s top defensive unit, leads the Panthers in average ice time (25:20) and has five assists on the year. Mark Pysyk, who was used as a winger the last two games, returned to his normal defense position and primarily paired with Weegar against the Penguins.
Honors for Luongo
Former Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo will be inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019.
The induction ceremony takes place on Oct. 29.
Luongo, 40, announced his NHL retirement on June 26 after a 20-year playing career, including 11 seasons over two stints with the Panthers.
He ranks second in NHL history in games played by a goaltender (1,044), third in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77). He is one of only three goaltenders in NHL history to have played 1,000 NHL games.
Luongo owns the Panthers franchise records for games played by a goaltender (572), wins (230), shutouts (38), saves (16,068) assists/points (13), single-season games played by a goaltender (75, 2005-06), single-season wins (35, 2005-06, 2015-16), single-season saves (2,303) and single-season shutouts (tied-7, 2003-04).
The other members of the six-person induction class: OJ McDuffie (Miami Dolphins), Tamara James (Miami Hurricanes basketball), Dr. Guy Harvey (fishing), Eddie Rodger (soccer) and Jesse Vassallo (swimming).