1 - 2 Final - 2OT
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Kovalev's shootout winner lifts Pens over Panthers

Mar 28, 2011 - 1:33 AM
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Alex Kovalev scored the winner in the shootout to help the Pittsburgh Penguins take a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers at CONSOL Energy Center.

In the second round, Kovalev shifted to the forehand and slipped the puck inside the left post. After Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Niclas Bergfors, James Neal sealed the win when he buried a wrister.

Ben Lovejoy had the lone goal of regulation for the Penguins, who have won their past four games by way of the shootout, a new NHL record. Fleury finished the game with 37 saves.

Pittsburgh remains on the heels of Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic Division and first overall in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins now have 98 points while the Flyers, who lost to Boston on Sunday, have 100.

Pittsburgh, which clinched a playoff spot on Saturday despite not playing as Tampa Bay defeated Carolina, and Philadelphia will meet in the Steel City on Tuesday. The Flyers still have a game in hand on the Penguins.

"Our goal since the beginning of the season has been to be on top," said Fleury. "We're not too far and we have a shot at it so that's good."

Ryan Carter scored the lone goal for the Panthers, who have dropped their past five games.

"That's as good a road games as we can play as a group," said Florida head coach Peter DeBoer. "I thought we limited their opportunities and we had our chances out there."

Tomas Vokoun stopped 23 shots in regulation, but Scott Clemmensen came in net for overtime and the shootout. He made four saves in OT, but stopped just one skater in the shootout. Vokoun said after the game that he had back spasms that caused him to leave the game, but that it's not anything serious.

The Panthers controlled play for much of the first period and outshot the Penguins by an 11-5 margin, but Fleury came up with several big stops to keep the game scoreless.

The first goal of the game came with 4:28 to play in the middle frame when a slap shot at the left point by Alexander Sulzer was deflected past Fleury by Carter in front of the net.

The Pens, though, answered with 2:11 left in the frame as Kovalev dished a little pass down to the bottom of the right circle for Lovejoy, who brought it back to the forehand and snapped it short-side by Vokoun for his third career goal.

The third period saw pretty even play by both sides as Florida edged Pittsburgh in shots, 12-11.

Game Notes

The Penguins gave out their team awards before the game and Fleury was named most valuable player while Mark Letestu was named rookie of the year...Carter's goal broke a shutout streak by Fleury of 150 minutes and 13 seconds, a new Pittsburgh record...Florida plays at Columbus on Tuesday...Pittsburgh has won three straight and six of seven against Florida. The two will meet in Florida next Saturday to wrap up the season-series.