SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang scored in his third game back since having a stroke and the Penguins beat the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Thursday night.
Letang had the stroke Nov. 28, returned to practice 10 days later and got back in the lineup Saturday against Buffalo. In the second period against Florida, Letang scored a short-handed goal off a breakaway pass from Bryan Rust to tie it at 1.
”He has worked hard to get back especially this quick,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. ”That was a big goal in the game, a shorthanded goal is big but for him, what he has gone through, it is fun to see him back out there doing his thing. He really did not ease his way into it and that is the way he likes it.”
Jake Guentzel scored twice and Evgeni Malkin added a power-play goal for the Penguins. They won for the seventh consecutive time and are 12-1-1 in their past 14 games.
Tristan Jarry made 32 saves to win his sixth consecutive start. Jarry is 10-0-1 in his past 11 games.
Ryan Lomberg and Sam Reinhart scored for Florida.
Malkin appeared to have injured his right knee on his goal as he was struck by a slap shot from Crosby.
The puck ended up in the net off the post, but Malkin hit the ice and had to be helped to the team’s medical room. Malkin has had surgery on his right knee in the past but both Crosby and coach Mike Sullivan did not think it was too serious an injury.
”It’s a funny way to score, but a goal is a goal,” Sullivan said. ”The preliminary prognosis is positive so that is a positive sign.”
Guentzel scored the go-ahead goal at 12:42 of the period by knocking in a power-play shot from Malkin with his skate. He also scored into an empty net with 1:18remaining.
Malkin’s goal made it 3-1 as Pittsburgh went 2 for 3 on the power play as well as got the short-handed goal from Letang.
Lomberg gave the Panthers – who were playing without leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk due to an unspecified illness – a 1-0 lead by following up a rebound from Eric Staal 5:30 into the game.
Reinhart one-timed a pass from Carter Verhaeghe at 10:14 of the third.
Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, coming off a shutout win against Columbus on Tuesday, took the loss and made 35 saves.
”I thought 5-on-5 they played their butts off down a guy,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said of his team. ”It was a sprint game and there was no way to play that other than full-out. I thought we did a good job.”
NOTES: The Panthers again started a game short-handed as Tkachuk did not play due to an illness which has been sweeping through his team’s locker room. Captain Aleksander Barkov, Anton Lundell, Verhaeghe and Spencer Knight have all missed games in the past few weeks because they were sick. Florida was also without Radko Gudas and Chris Tierney as both are in concussion protocol; Colin White did not play due to an unspecified injury. . Pittsburgh forward Jason Zucker continues to be out with a foot injury. Drew O’Connor and Mark Friedman were healthy scratches by the Penguins.
Penguins: At Carolina on Sunday.
Panthers: At New Jersey on Saturday night.