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Winning Streak is Over; Panthers Maul Penguins, 4-1



The Pittsburgh Penguins have made a habit of giving up goals late in periods this season.

They did it twice Saturday, and it probably cost them at least one point, and maybe two, in the standings.

Florida scored one with 21.6 seconds to go in the first period and another with 10 seconds remaining in the second in what became a 4-1 victory over the Penguins at FLA Live Arena.

The loss snapped the Penguins’ four-game winning streak and dropped them into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff field, one point behind the New York Islanders. The Penguins have played three fewer games than New York.

No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry had been scheduled to make his third consecutive start and sixth in seven games, but Mike Sullivan turned to Casey DeSmith because Jarry did not feel well in the morning.

Nick Bonino, acquired from San Jose a few hours before the trade deadline Friday, slotted between Drew O’Connor and Josh Archibald on the fourth line, as expected.

He also teamed with Bryan Rust on a penalty-killing tandem, logging four minutes, 36 seconds of shorthanded work, the most of any Penguins forward.

The Panthers were passive at the deadline, but got an infusion of talent against the Penguins as Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett returned from injuries.

Barkov didn’t need long to get on the stat sheet, but it was for interfering with Sidney Crosby at 5:43 of the opening period.

It was just Barkov’s second minor of the season, but also the first of two he was assessed in this game.

The Penguins failed to generate any significant pressure during the two minutes that followed. No surprise there, since they have one of the NHL’s least effective power plays on the road.

That chance with the extra man was a microcosm of the first period for the Penguins, who managed only three shots on Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Nonetheless, it seemed as if they would make it to the first intermission unscathed until Bennett backhanded a Carter Verhaeghe rebound past DeSmith with 21.6 seconds remaining to put Florida up, 1-0.

With just 6.2 seconds to go, Danton Heinen was guilty of a bad penalty when he tripped Bennett near the Panthers’ net, allowing Florida to start the second period up a man.

The Penguins killed that penalty, but weren’t so fortunate after Kris Letang was sent off for slashing at 2:50 of the second.

Florida kept play in the Penguins’ end until Aaron Ekblad took a cross-ice feed from Barkov and beat DeSmith from low in the left circle at 4:11. The goal came shortly after Rust’s attempt to clear the puck failed.

The Penguins countered with a 5-on-3 goal at 8:51, as Letang took a pass from Jake Guentzel and beat Bobrovsky from below the left dot.

The goal was Letang’s eighth of the season, half of which he’s gotten in three games against Florida. Evgeni Malkin received the second assist.

Malkin got a hooking minor less than two minutes later, tying Kevin Stevens for the most penalty minutes in Pittsburgh Penguins history (1,048).

That was one of five penalties assessed during a frenetic second period, which was capped when Florida’s Eetu Luostarinen chipped in a rebound with 10 seconds remaining to put the Panthers up by two again.

That was their 31st shot in the first 40 minutes; the Penguins generated 17 during that time.

Verhaeghe effectively put the game out of reach at 9:53 of the third, beating DeSmith with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a scheduled day off Sunday and will reconvene Monday at 11 a.m. for a practice at PPG Paints Arena.