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Florida Panthers ride special teams to fourth win in a row in Pittsburgh



Florida panthers
Carter Verhaeghe chases down a puck along the boards in the Florida Panthers’ victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night in Sunrise. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

The Florida Panthers extended their winning streak to four games, taking a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.

During their winning streak, the Panthers are 7-17 on the power play (41.2 percent) and a perfect 13-13 on the penalty kill.

“Our special teams have been awesome,” Carter Verhaeghe said.

“Our power play has been scoring almost every time they’ve been out there and our penalty kill has been really solid. Special teams wins games, so it’s huge.”

Florida continued that trend on Tuesday, going 1-2 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.

Their franchise-record four-game streak with two power play goals ended, but it was no big deal.

Where the Panthers have really stepped up as of late is the penalty kill.

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Aside from the 13-13 mark they put up for the entirety of the winning streak, Florida is 8-8 on the penalty kill since losing rookie Anton Lundell — a staple on the penalty kill — to a lower-body injury in the first period of Monday’s win in Buffalo.

“Our penalty killing has been pretty good, the guys on the ice are doing their job,” Jonathan Huberdeau said. “Guys are blocking shots and have a lot of dedication.”

Huberdeau has been big in stepping up in those shorthanded minutes in Lundell’s absence.

Florida’s leading scorer and MVP candidate played 5:11 in penalty kill time, making numerous big defensive plays in the process.

“I think I’ve been responsible defensively and I like it. I take pride in the penalty kill,” Huberdeau said.

“Playing power play minutes gives you another aspect and I can read what the other guy is going to do. I take that and I use it on the penalty kill and I just work hard out there.”

Lundell’s status for Thursday’s game is questionable, but interim coach Andrew Brunette says that he thinks it is “not serious” but in the meantime, Huberdeau could continue to be a big contributor on the penalty kill moving forward.

Florida’s first came off a Sam Reinhart shot which opened some eyes with the Miami Marlins as he batted the puck out of the air in front of Tristan Jarry at 12:43.

Not two minutes later and it was Aaron Ekblad saving a puck from drifting out of the zone and teeing it up from inside the blue line.

The Panthers held a 2-0 advantage until Pittsburgh scored twice in a span of nine seconds in the second.

The Penguins got on the board on a shot from Bryan Rust, then Jake Guentzel scored off a Sidney Crosby faceoff win.

However, Florida got right back to work after those two Pittsburgh goals.

“We’re mentally strong and I didn’t really feel it affected us,” Brunette said.

“It was a face-off goal and kind of a lucky bounce, so hey, we’re okay. That’s how we responded and the next line up did their jobs.”

Florida’s power play finally got a chance not long later and scored again as Huberdeau sent a perfect pass to Anthony Duclair.

Verhaeghe gave Sergei Bobrovsky and the Panthers some needed breathing room with 8:49 left as he flew down the ice on a 2-on-1 with Barkov.

Verhaeghe did not pass the puck, rifling a shot past Jarry to make it 4-2.

“They jumped on him pretty good,” Verhaeghe said of Barkov. “I wanted to pass it to him, but he gave me a lane so I just shot it.”

Florida ended up going 2-0-1 against the Penguins this season with each game being decided by a goal — or in a shootout. The Panthers got five of the available six points against Pittsburgh in the season series.



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