Final SO

Series (Game 3 of 4)

Pittsburgh leads 4-0

Game 1: Monday, November 22nd
Game 2: Wednesday, December 22nd
Game 3: Sunday, March 27th
Game 4: Saturday, April 2nd

Panthers 1

(30-40-12, 72 pts)

Penguins 2

(49-25-8, 106 pts)

1:00 PM ET, March 27, 2011

CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1 2 3 SO T
FLA 0 1 0 01
PIT 0 1 0 12

M. Fleury (Penguins - G): Saves: 37, Save Pct.: .974

A. Kovalev (Penguins - RW): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

B. Lovejoy (Penguins - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Panthers-Penguins Preview


While the Pittsburgh Penguins' offense continues to struggle, Marc-Andre Fleury is doing his best to keep his team in contention for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Fleury will likely be in net as the Penguins try to record a sixth win in seven games overall and fifth in a row at home over the struggling Florida Panthers when the teams meet Sunday.

Pittsburgh (44-23-8) is one of three teams -- along with Philadelphia and Washington -- with at least 96 points vying for home ice throughout the East playoffs.

As of Jan. 5, the Penguins were fifth in the NHL with 3.2 goals per game as Sidney Crosby had tallied 32 in 41 contests. However, since losing Crosby to a concussion following an 8-1 win over Tampa Bay that night, Pittsburgh's scoring average is a full goal lower to rank 26th in the league in that stretch.

The club, also without Evgeni Malkin (knee) for all but six minutes since Jan. 18, has still managed to go 8-2-2 in its last 12.

The Penguins, who have converted just three of their last 52 power-play opportunities (5.8 percent), totaled one goal in their last two games but recorded four points in the standings thanks in large part to Fleury's impressive play.

Fleury made 19 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over the Flyers on Thursday night then stopped 21 shots and all three shootout attempts in Friday night's 1-0 win over New Jersey. He is 5-2-0 with a 1.81 goals-against average in his last seven starts.

"He is a very competitive goalie and he wants to be the best in the league," forward Jordan Staal said.

The Penguins limited the Devils to just one shot over the first 20 minutes. They held Florida without a shot for a full period twice during the 2000-01 season.

"The last two games in a row we have had a real sharp effort from the entire team," defenseman Matt Niskanen told the Penguins' official website. "Everyone is buying into the way we want to play. We're being aggressive but we are being smart at the same time. It's a total team effort and we are playing the right way."

The defense is about to get even stronger, as Brooks Orpik is expected to return after missing 13 games with a hand injury.

The Penguins have taken seven of the last eight home meetings with Florida -- including four straight.

While Fleury is 5-6-0 with a 3.34 GAA lifetime in the series, teammate Brent Johnson is 5-1-0 with a 2.09 GAA in his last six starts versus the Panthers. Johnson, though, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

After failing to score in each of its two previous games, Florida (29-36-10) was eliminated from playoff contention with a 4-2 loss at Buffalo on Friday night -- its fourth consecutive defeat.

"It's been hurting for a while," coach Peter DeBoer said. "You get numb to that pain."

Tomas Vokoun made 28 saves but dropped to 0-5-0 in his last five starts.

"We played hard, but it's just where we are right now," said Vokoun, 0-3-3 with a 3.18 GAA in his last six starts at Pittsburgh.

Left wing David Booth, tied for the team lead with 21 goals, hasn't scored in six games.

Booth was struck in the throat with a puck against the Sabres but was cleared to travel with the team. His status for Sunday is unknown.

Center Stephen Weiss, first on the club with 49 points, didn't record any Friday after notching five during a four-game point streak. He missed shutout losses to the Rangers and Chicago on Tuesday and Wednesday with an injury.