Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said his team's record on home ice was a bit misleading. Florida came into Saturday with the fewest home wins in the league, only three of the past four losses came in a shootout and could have gone either way.
On Saturday, one finally went the way of the Panthers.
Stephen Weiss capped off a great night by jamming a puck through with 3:30 left and Jose Theodore held off the late-charging Penguins as Florida ended its home losing skid with a 3-2 win in front of an announced 18,071 at BankAtlantic Center.
“Just to get a home win, get that off our back, and to beat a team like that really is huge for us,'' said Weiss, who had a goal and two assists. “I don't know if it was a statement, but this gives us confidence that if we play the way we want to play we can compete with teams like that.''
The Panthers hadn't won in Sunrise since beating the Islanders on Oct. 22. Saturday's win also snapped Florida's losing streak to Pittsburgh at five and catapulted them over the Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division.
“It's about time we get some bounces in our building in the final minutes of games,'' said Kris Versteeg, who had a pair of assists as his line of Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann had something to do with all three goals. “We have to be better at home, a hard team to play at home.''
Theodore ended with 39 saves and stopped all 17 shots offered in the third period. The night didn't start off the way he would have liked as the Penguins got on the board first after Chris Kunitz knocked a puck Theodore got a piece of through just 1:09 in. Only Theodore stood firm.
“I didn't panic,'' he said. “We out-battled them in front of the net. Huge win. You need to start the week on the right note. You never want to lose two in a row. This was a good bounce back win.''
Florida responded six minutes later as Brian Campbell got his second goal of the season after getting the puck into the slot and putting it underneath Brent Johnson. The Panthers then took their first lead of the night in the second when Tomas Fleischmann ended Florida's power play drought at 18 chances when he pulled in a puck and flung it past Johnson (28 saves).
Pittsburgh tied it on a sweet Jordan Staal goal with 7:22 left in the second, but the Panthers finally got the go-ahead third period goal at home it had been looking for when Weiss, Fleischmann and Versteeg all chopped at a loose puck on a power play chance. Weiss got a piece of it and Johnson couldn't find it.
After that, the Pens threw everything they had at Theodore.
“The desire to keep the puck out of the net was extremely strong by all six players on the ice,'' Dineen said. “I don't think our fans ever get cheated here at home. We always make it entertaining.''