The Pittsburgh Penguins acknowledge they’ve been getting by more on talent than discipline recently even as they’ve soared to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
The perpetually rebuilding Florida Panthers have no such luxury. On Monday night, the Panthers’ hard work made up the difference.
Drew Shore scored twice for the first multi-goal game of his career and the Panthers ended Pittsburgh’s club-record 13-game home winning streak with a 5-1 victory.
“It was a big game,” Shore said. “We kind of treated it like a playoff game. We only had a couple more games until the [Olympic] break so we wanted to make a strong push.”
Jonathan Huberdeau, Dmitry Kulikov and Shawn Matthias also scored for the Panthers, who won in Pittsburgh for the first time in five years. Scott Clemmensen stopped 35 shots in his first start in three weeks as Florida ended a two-game losing streak.
“I asked them for 60 minutes and 200 feet,” Florida coach Peter Horachek said.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma received neither.
Matt Niskanen scored the only goal for the Penguins as Pittsburgh lost at home for the first time since Nov. 13. Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves but fell for only the fourth time in his past 37 starts at Consol Energy Center.
“We were just awful,” Niskanen said. “Bad execution. Bad work ethic. We just weren’t hungry enough to win the loose puck battle and they just beat the [stuffing] out of us.”
Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin played 20 minutes in his return from a broken leg, clearing the way for him to play for Team USA in the Olympics.
Forwards James Neal, Chuck Kobasew and Jayson Megna also returned from injuries as the Penguins — already with a comfortable 13-point cushion in the Metropolitan Division — continue to get healthy with the Olympic break looming.
While it may take a game or two for the Penguins to adjust to the familiar faces, they don’t view it as an excuse.
“We’re assimilating players back into our lineup ... but that’s not a new challenge for this group,” Bylsma said. “It’s not a new challenge for our team.”