Penguins 5, Panthers 1

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SUNRISE, Fla. – Pittsburgh rookie Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists, Sebastien Caron made 36 saves, and the Penguins snapped a 12-game losing streak to Florida by beating the Panthers 5-1 Friday night.

Konstantin Koltsov, Ryan Whitney, Ryan Malone and John LeClair also scored for Pittsburgh, the NHL’s worst team this season.

Jay Bouwmeester scored for Florida but Roberto Luongo stopped only 14 of 18 shots through two periods. That was enough to knock the Panthers out of the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The best they can do is tie eighth-place Tampa Bay for the final spot, but the Lightning would win the tiebreaker based on more victories.

Crosby’s 36th goal of the season gave Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead at 14:17 of the second. Andy Hilbert passed to Crosby, who was skating toward the net. The teen phenom beat Luongo on the glove side from just outside the crease.

Bouwmeester’s point shot went between Caron’s legs at 13:51 of the third period and brought Florida within 4-1 but LeClair pushed Pittsburgh’s advantage back to four goals with 3 minutes remaining.

Pittsburgh scored first on Koltsov’s short-handed goal at 8:32 of the first. Sergei Gonchar brought the puck along the right boards and fired a pass to Koltsov, who deflected the puck past Luongo. Just 1:17 later, Whitney grabbed a rebound in front of the crease and swept a shot in.

The Penguins stretched the lead to 3-0 on their second shot-handed goal of the game. Josef Melichar passed from the top of the left circle to Malone in front and he swatted the puck by Luongo at 7:32 of the second period.

Jamie McLennan made eight saves for Florida in the third.

Notes: Pittsburgh beat Florida for the first time since March 5, 2002. … Crosby has a four-game goal streak. … Luongo lost for the first time in 12 games against the Penguins.

AP-ES-04-07-06 2212EDT

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