Jussi Jokinen shootout winner lifts Florida Panthers past Pittsburgh Penguins

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- With six players out injured, slumping All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo benched for the night and red-hot Sidney Crosby coming to town, the Florida Panthers needed a spark to keep their precarious hold on first place in the Atlantic Division.

They got one from backup goalie Al Montoya.


Left winger Jussi Jokinen had the winning goal in a shootout, and Montoya made 31 saves as Florida snapped a two-game losing streak, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Monday night at the BB&T Center.

"We won, so I will say I enjoyed it," said Montoya of a wild overtime and a shootout that saw him stop four of five shooters. "I love to contribute."

Florida, which has been excellent defensively overall this season, had allowed three or more goals in six straight games before getting back to its game on Monday.


Montoya came within less than four minutes of what would have been his first shutout in his two years with the Panthers, encompassing 25 starts. But Pittsburgh left winger Chris Kunitz tied the score 1-1 with 3:19 left in the third period to send the game to overtime.

The Panthers (33-18-6), who lead the second place Detroit Red Wings by five points in their division, also got a goal from center Nick Bjugstad.

Crosby got an assist on Kunitz's goal and continued his amazing run. Crosby has 35 points in his past 23 games, and he also had Pittsburgh's only goal in the shootout.

Pittsburgh was one shootout stop away from winning the game. But Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 27 saves and took the hard-luck loss, failed to stop Bjugstad in the third round.

Two rounds later, Jokinen scored, and Montoya stopped center Matt Cullen to give Florida the win.

Jokinen said familiarity helped him.

"Me and (Fleury) know each other pretty well since my time in Pittsburgh," Jokinen said. "I had a couple of options."

Fleury said the reverse was true for him.


"As the goalie, you always want to make the difference in the shootout," he said. "Sometimes it's tough with a guy you know (Jokinen). You know what he likes to do. But he's good at it."

Another ex-Penguin -- Panthers right winger Jaromir Jagr -- had a quiet night.

Jagr, playing against the team that drafted him, celebrated his 44th birthday with a win but did not get any points. Jagr won two Stanley Cup titles with the Penguins -- 1991 and 1992.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh (28-19-8) suffered just its third loss in the past 10 games. The Penguins are not yet in playoff position, ranking fifth in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the fourth-place New Jersey Devils.

Bjugstad's goal, which came with 12:30 left in the first period, occurred when he set up below the left circle and took an excellent cross-ice pass from defenseman Alex Petrovic, beating Fleury to the short side.

It was not an ideal start for the Penguins, buy Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said he was pleased overall.

"I think our effort was there," Sullivan said. "We had a lot of zone time. We controlled territory for most the night. We knew (the Panthers) were going to come out with some urgency.


"We probably could have raised the level from a pace standpoint in the first period. But as the game went on, we did that."

That added pace finally paid off when Kunitz tied the score 1-1 late in the third period, beating Montoya with a high shot from the right circle.

"That was a little backbreaking," Montoya said of Kunitz's goal. "But the boys stuck with it."

NOTES: Florida G Roberto Luongo has allowed 18 goals in his past five games. ... The Penguins are without three of their top four centers: Evgeni Malkin (lower body, out since Feb. 2); Eric Fehr (lower body, since Feb. 3) Nick Bonino (hand, Jan. 12). ... Pittsburgh scratched D Ian Cole and LW Sergei Plotnikov. ... Florida recalled C Greg McKegg, 23, from Portland of the AHL and inserted him in their lineup. He's the ninth Portland player to play for the Panthers this season, including four who have made their NHL debuts: C John McFarland, D Brent Regner, RW Logan Shaw and LW Connor Brickley. ... Florida has six players on its injured list: C Quinton Howden (possible concussion); C Dave Bolland (ankle); C Brandon Pirri (ankle); C Aleksander Barkov (concussion); D Willie Mitchell (lower body); D Erik Gudbranson (shoulder). ... Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez dropped the ceremonial first puck.


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