SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves, Sam Bennett scored in his return to the lineup and the Florida Panthers stopped Pittsburgh’s four-game win streak with a 4-1 victory against the Penguins on Saturday night.
Bennett missed six games with a lower-body injury. Aleksander Barkov had two assists for Florida after he was sidelined for three games with a hand injury.
“You want to be out there helping your team so it was a great feeling being back out there,” Bennett said. “It was great having a full lineup and I think we have the confidence to make a run.”
Aaron Ekblad, Eetu Luostarinen and Carter Verhaeghe also scored as the Panthers improved to 1-1 on a seven-game homestand.
Kris Letang scored for Pittsburgh, and Casey DeSmith made 38 saves.
The Penguins (31-22-9) lead the Panthers (31-27-6) by three points in the race for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
“This is Game 64 and it is the first time we have had our whole lineup and it just looks different,’’ Florida coach Paul Maurice said.
Bennett put Florida on the board with 21.6 seconds remaining in the first period. He scored his 15th of the season on a rebound of a Verhaeghe shot.
At 4:11 of the second, the Panthers made it 2-0 when Ekblad one-timed a cross-ice pass from Barkov on a power play.
“It was a full 60 minutes, we did not any bad moments in the game and whenever they had a chance, (Bobrovsky) was there,” Barkov said. “It was a good game for everyone. I feel good and am excited to be back playing with these guys.”
The Penguins cut into the deficit with two Florida players in the penalty box at 8:51 of the second. Jake Guentzel found Letang all alone beside the cage.
Florida restored its two-goal lead with 10 seconds left in the second. Luostarinen got his 15th when he cleaned up a rebound from a Barkov shot.
Verhaeghe gave Florida its largest lead of the game with a snap shot from 25 feet out at 9:53 of the third.
“I did not think we were good enough,’’ Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We had moments but overall, shift-in and shift-out, we were not good enough. We did not play with enough urgency.”
Barkov came into the game having been called for one penalty all season long. On Saturday, he was hit with interference and slashing. … Nick Bonino, who left the Penguins in 2017, was back on Saturday wearing his old No. 13 after he was reacquired by Pittsburgh in a trade with San Jose on Friday. Bonino won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins. … After not trading any players at the deadline on Friday, the Panthers returned Zac Dalpe to their AHL team in Charlotte.
Penguins: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Panthers: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
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