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Understrength Penguins too powerful for Panthers

(Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting the hang of playing without two of their top players as they overcame key absences to beat the Florida Panthers 4-2 in their home opener on Tuesday.

With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin sidelined, as they were for much of the second half of last season, the Penguins got 32 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury and goals from four different players to improve to 3-0-1 at the start of the season.

"We have pretty much the same group (as last year). We all know the system, and we play together the right way," Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis told reporters.

"It was good to win at home."

Dupuis and Matt Cooke gave the Penguins an early 2-0 lead, while Richard Park scored in the second period and James Neal added a goal in the third to hand the Panthers their first loss.

After Marcel Goc scored at 12:06 in the second to pull Florida within a goal, Tomas Fleischmann's snap shot early in the third cut the deficit to 3-2 before Neal put the game away.

Goaltender Jose Theodore, who signed with the Panthers (1-1-0) in the off-season, was coming off a shutout win in his debut with the team on Saturday but could not duplicate the effort and made 25 saves in the loss.

"I think we got a little confidence from last year knowing we can win without them," Fleury told reporters. "

"We want them to come back as soon as possible, and it would be great to have them with us. But we've got to find ways to hold together, contribute and get some wins."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)