Chris Leton scores with 54 seconds left in overtime, Penguins beat Panthers

PITTSBURGH — Chris Leton scored his second goal of the game with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 7-6 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Le Tang, who has not played since Dec. 28 due to a lower-body injury, also had two assists for Pittsburgh. His power play at top left gave the Penguins their fourth overtime victory of the season, and Pittsburgh is now in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, opening the door to the ninth-place Panthers. A little breathing room.

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen added a goal and two assists each for Pittsburgh. Rickard Rakell and Drew O’Connor also scored for the Penguins, who beat the Panthers for the 18th time in Florida State’s last 21 visits to Pittsburgh.

Casey DeSmith struggled in place of backup Tristan Jarry, a late injury. DeSmith won for the third time in his last 10 starts, including the 33 field goal attempts he faced in overtime.

Carter Verhaeghe scored twice for Florida, including the tie-breaker with 2:32 left. Aaron Ekblad has one goal and two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin White’s sixth goal of the season put the Panthers ahead with 4:10 to go into the third quarter, but Florida couldn’t keep the lead. Alex Lyon made 42 saves.

Both teams have only one healthy goaltender available. Jarry has been solid in two games since returning from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for more than two weeks, but sat out for unknown reasons.

Lyon appeared to be ready for a night off after a poor performance in Monday night’s 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers. Instead, he was back at work when the Panthers took the ice without Spencer Knight on the bench.

Neither Lyon nor De Smith seemed ready to play on short notice, conceding a combined six goals – three for each team – in a frenzied first period that included Letang’s first since December 15. A goal and Tkachuk’s 25th goal of the season.

Letang’s goal went wide and seemed to catch Lyon off guard, giving the Penguins a 3-2 lead. DeSmith returned the ball almost immediately when he made the ill-advised decision to try to block a leading pass for streaking Verhaeghe. DeSmith lost the game as Verhaeghe slid the ball over the outstretched keeper and into the net.

Things were settled in the second. Eckblad’s short-handed goal gave the Panthers the lead, but Crosby built the tension with a nifty backhand that hit Lyon’s leg with 40 seconds left to make it 4-4. Both teams squandered a one-goal lead in the third quarter.

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