Final score: Penguins 3, Panthers 1.
Why it matters: The victory raised the Penguins' record to 12-6 and leveled their mark at Consol Energy Center at 4-4, but the significance of the victory paled in comparison to the possibility of losing Evgeni Malkin because of an unspecified injury. Malkin left the game at 4:51 of the third period after Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson knocked him into the boards behind the Florida net. Malkin's back struck the boards first and his head to the same, but only after his neck had snapped violently. There was no immediate word on the nature or severity of Malkin's injury, but coach Dan Bylsma said the team expects to know more by Saturday.
In a nutshell: The Penguins, cognizant that Florida had played in Philadelphia Thursday night, spent the evening trying to wear down the Panthers, especially their defensemen, and that strategy paid off in the latter stages of the game. Defenseman Mike Weaver gave Florida a 1-0 lead at 8:25 of the second period, but Chris Kunitz countered for the Penguins during a power play at 10:41. Defenseman Matt Niskanen got the game-winner at 7:49 of the third and Dustin Jeffrey closed out the scoring at 15:15.
Turning point: Niskanen's goal was the pivotal moment in the game, and one of the most surprising ones, because Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom had been grabbing every puck that sailed near him all night. Nonetheless, Niskanen's shot – which he actually was trying to put off Markstrom's pads, in the hopes of creating a rebound – went right by Markstrom's glove and into the net.
Under the radar: Jeffrey, a healthy scratch for nine of the previous 10 games, has a solid showing in 9:23 of work. The only soft spot in his performance was on faceoffs, as he lost six of nine.
The brightest star: There were no truly dazzling performances, although Markstrom was very good for much of the evening, but Niskanen earns top billing for scoring the game-winner, which was his third goal of the season and second in two games.
The last word: Penguins center Sidney Crosby, on the possibility of having Malkin out of the lineup for an extended period: "Hopefully, we don't have to deal with it, but if that's the case, we're all going to have to raise our level of play. He's a big part of our team. When you lose guys like that, you can't replace them, but everyone has to find a way to step up."
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