Malkin, Penguins beat Panthers in shootout for seventh straight win

PITTSBURGH -- Mom and Pop Malkin are in town, and that could be a bad sign for the Pittsburgh Penguins' upcoming opponents.

Evgeni Malkin scored Pittsburgh's first goal and then decided the shootout for the Penguins, who rallied from two goals down in the third period and beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 on Tuesday night for their seventh consecutive victory.

The winning streak is the Penguins' longest since they won eight in a row from Dec. 23, 2007, through Jan. 10, 2008.

Kris Letang and Malkin each got the puck past Tomas Vokoun as the Penguins won their second shootout in three days, following a 4-3 decision Sunday at Washington.

Sidney Crosby scored the tying goal and assisted on NHL scoring leader Malkin's 30th during Pittsburgh's ninth win in 11 home games.

The Penguins, with 78 points, moved one ahead of Florida and into sixth place in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race after the two began the night tied for seventh. Florida and Carolina are tied with 77 points apiece.

"It's a big point this time of the year, but we had the opportunity to get two and you get greedy this time of the year," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said.

Florida's Richard Zednik and Stephen Weiss each failed against goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the shootout, allowing Malkin to decide it. Malkin repeatedly shifted the puck on his stick as he skated down the edge of the slot, forcing Vokoun to commit by going down and allowing Malkin to slip the puck into the unguarded net.

"I did something different because I did not score the last time," said Malkin, who previously was 1-for-4 in shootouts. "I practiced my move a couple of times, and it worked good."

Florida, losing to the Penguins for the second time in six days, is 3-7 in shootouts. Pittsburgh is 6-4.

"The shootout is a lottery," said Vokoun, who lost despite making 47 saves. "He [Letang] made a nice move on the first one and I kind of froze. I tried to throw a pokecheck at him [Malkin], but he made a good play."

Malkin seems to make a lot of them when his parents visit the United States from Russia. They were also in Pittsburgh last season when Malkin made a big push -- getting 15 points during a five-game stretch -- to threaten Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the scoring title.

Ovechkin eventually won that race, but Malkin currently leads Ovechkin 95-85.

Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton each had a goal and an assist as the Panthers scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead. Jordan Staal and Crosby answered by scoring three minutes apart early in the third to tie it for Pittsburgh, which was coming off the first five-game road sweep in franchise history.

"We heard about how it's a tough thing for a team coming back from a long road trip, and I think we came into this game knowing that didn't matter and that we needed two points, especially against Florida," Staal said. "So it was huge."

Staal made it 3-2 with 2:20 gone in the third, batting in a rebound of Matt Cooke's shot from the slot.

Crosby tied it with his 26th and third in three games since returning from a four-game layoff with a groin injury, finishing off a give-and-go sequence with new linemates Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz. Crosby redirected Guerin's shot, causing it to strike the left post and deflect off the back of Vokoun's left leg.

"You've just got to keep peppering him," Crosby said. "He was obviously on his game tonight but every goalie's the same way, if you get shots and get traffic, he's going to be forced to deal with rebounds -- goalies can get tired, as well. When you face that many shots, it's not easy."

Guerin, who reached the 800-point mark last week shortly after being traded to Pittsburgh, was credited with his 400th assist. He has one goal and four assists since being traded by the Islanders a week ago.

Before that, Boynton, Kamil Kreps and Ballard scored in succession as the Panthers were outshot 18-7 in the second yet turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead. Pittsburgh held a 36-12 advantage over the final two periods only to be outscored 3-2. The Penguins ended with a 50-21 edge in shots.

Game notes
Florida forward Nathan Horton will be out two to four weeks with a tendon injury in his left ring finger. ... Florida is 9-1-1 in Tuesday games. ... Fleury has won each game during Pittsburgh's winning streak. ... Pittsburgh played the first of nine home games in a 10-game span that runs through April 1. The only road game is Thursday at Columbus. ... Pittsburgh is 9-1-1 under coach Dan Bylsma. ... The 50-shot game was Pittsburgh's first since early last season at Toronto.