Published February 27, 2013
| Sports Network
Sunrise, FL – Tomas Kopecky notched the first hat trick of his career and the Florida Panthers hung on for a 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
Tomas Fleischmann scored the winner in the third period and added two assists and Brian Campbell also had a goal and two assists for the Panthers, who blew a 4-1 lead but survived to win for just the second time in their past nine games.
"It's as close as you're going to get to a playoff game," said Campbell. "I love playing in it. It's a great test. We're a desperate team and we needed it. We can fold up and not compete but there's a lot of fight in this team and we have a ways to go but we're working on getting better."
Chris Kunitz and James Neal each posted a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who had won five of six coming in but faltered without Evgeni Malkin, who was placed on injured reserve Monday with a concussion.
Neither starting goaltender survived the game as Jose Theodore was pulled after the second period for giving up four goals on 19 shots for Florida, while Tomas Vokoun was yanked by Pittsburgh halfway through the second period for allowing four goals on 22 shots.
Scott Clemmensen stopped all 15 shots he faced in the third for the win, while Marc-Andre Fleury allowed one goal on 13 shots in the loss.
The score was tied entering the third period, but the Panthers took a 5-4 lead at the 3:29 mark. Exiting the penalty box, Fleischmann took a long outlet pass from Jerred Smithson down the right wing for a 2-on-1 break. From the circle, he ripped a shot off the right post and in for the 100th goal of his career.
Pittsburgh was unable to take advantage of a power play later in the frame and Kopecky capped his hat trick with a clearing attempt off the right boards that went the length of the ice and into the open net with a minute left.
The hosts opened the scoring at the 13:57 mark of the first period while on the power play when Campbell blasted a shot from the top of the left circle and the rebound kicked out to the right side where Kopecky knocked it in.
Pittsburgh tied the game 51 seconds into the second as Neal's wrister from the right boards beat Theodore cleanly, but the Panthers scored three straight power-play goals.
The first came at the 3:22 mark as Kopecky swept in a rebound from in front and Campbell scored five minutes later on a slap shot from the left circle.
It was a 4-1 game just 31 seconds later as Kopecky's quick pass to the slot caromed off Marcel Goc and past Vokoun for his first goal of the season.
Pittsburgh pulled Vokoun and the move worked as the Penguins responded with three straight goals to tie the game.
Less than a minute after the Goc goal, Dustin Jeffrey's wrist shot from the top of the left circle trickled into the net and Martin made it a one-goal game at the 14:08 mark of the second off a one-timer that hit off the crossbar on a rush play.
Kunitz capped the comeback with a power-play goal which changed direction off the body of Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver in the final minute of the middle stanza.
"Thought we did a good job battling back, getting into a game we had no business being in, but we gave it away in the third," said Kunitz.
Pittsburgh continues its three-game road trip in Carolina on Thursday ... Florida hosts Buffalo on Thursday ... Pittsburgh had taken a 3-1 decision over the Panthers at home last Friday ... Florida finished 4-for-7 on the power play while Pittsburgh was 1-for-4 ... Sidney Crosby had two assists for Pittsburgh and leads the league in helpers with 21.