Kris Letang scores in 3rd game since stroke, Penguins win

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang scored in his third game back since suffering a stroke and the Penguins defeated the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Thursday night.

Letang had the stroke on Nov. 28, returned to practice 10 days later and returned to the lineup against Buffalo on Saturday. In the second half against Florida, Letang scored a shorthanded goal after a breakaway pass from Bryan Rust to level it at 1.

“He worked hard to come back so quickly,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. “That was a big goal in the game, a shorthanded goal is big but for him, what he’s been through, it’s fun to see him back out there doing his thing. He really didn’t take it easy and that’s how he likes it.”

Jake Guentzel scored twice and Evgeni Malkin added a power play goal for the Penguins. They won for the seventh time in a row and are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games.

Tristan Jarry made 32 saves to win his sixth consecutive start. Jarry is 10-0-1 in his last 11 games.

Ryan Lomberg and Sam Reinhart scored for Florida.

Malkin appeared to have injured his right knee on his goal when he was hit by a slap shot from Crosby.

The puck landed on the post in the net, but Malkin hit the ice and had to be taken to team infirmary. Malkin has had surgery on his right knee in the past, but both Crosby and coach Mike Sullivan didn’t think the injury was too serious.

“It’s a fun way to score, but a goal is a goal,” Sullivan said. “The preliminary forecast is positive, so that’s a positive sign.”

Guentzel scored the go-ahead goal at 12:42 of the period by buttoning a power play shot from Malkin with his skate. He also hit the empty net at 1:18.

Malkin’s goal made it 3–1 as Pittsburgh went 2 to 3 on the power play and scored the goal from Letang outnumbered.

Lomberg gave the Panthers, who were without top scorer Matthew Tkachuk due to an unspecified illness, a 1-0 lead by putting in play a rebound from Eric Staal at 5:30.

Reinhart once matched a pass from Carter Verhaeghe at 10:14 of the third.

Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who celebrated a shutout win over Columbus on Tuesday, took the loss and made 35 saves.

“I thought 5-on-5 they’re going to take a guy’s butt off,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said of his team. “It was a sprint game and there was no other option but to play at full power. I thought we did a good job.”

NOTES: The Panthers started another game shorthanded as Tkachuk did not play due to an illness that swept through his team’s locker room. Captain Aleksander Barkov, Anton Lundell, Verhaeghe and Spencer Knight have all missed games in recent weeks due to illness. Florida was also without Radko Gudas and Chris Tierney as both are on the concussion record; Colin White did not play due to an unspecified injury. … Pittsburgh forward Jason Zucker continues to be out with a foot injury. Drew O’Connor and Mark Friedman were healthy scratches from the penguins.


Penguins: On Sunday in Carolina.

Panthers: Saturday night in New Jersey.

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