Eight is Better than Seven: Pens beat Panthers 2-1

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: Jose Theodore #60 of the Florida Panthers makes a save on Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 9, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Panthers 2-1 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

What an ugly win this was.

The first few minutes of this Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Florida Panthers showdown was run by the Pens' offense. The puck didn't even cross the red line until after the first minute. But then the switch flipped and the Panthers took control of the game. Pens were playing a humdrum game and it eventually caught up with them when Tomas Fleischmann escaped from the top defensive pairing of Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek to bounce in the puck after collecting the puck that bounced off the boards.

Steve Sullivan put the Pens on the board after a weak shot following a small breakaway crawled by Jose Theodore and across the blue line. It almost looked as if the Pens would net a similar when Pascal Dupuis let a sneaky shot go just feet from the cage. Refs called a goal at the time but after a quick review, it was rightfully called back. The replay of the goal covered most of the evidence, but in my opinion, I still don't think the puck had enough oomph behind it to cross the line before Theodore got his arm on it.

Not like it really matters anymore.

Jordan Staal, who was a horse the entire game, was literally inches from netting the game winner on his backhand with six seconds left in regulation. He had an open cage but defenseman Jason Garrison's miraculous stick won the Panthers a point.

Overtime came and went and the Pens did their business in the shootout. James Neal and Evgeni Malkin all day long. Marc-Andre Fleury is still soldiering this team forward like he has all season.

More ramblings on the game:

  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Simon Despres was called up after Paul Martin became a late scratch due to illness. The more I watch him play, the more I want him to find a permanent spot on the roster. Good decision making, great speed, and a lethal shot that could be great help on the power play. Gotta wonder if Ray Shero will be trading away some defensemen in the offseason because Despres is ready for the Big Boy League.
  • Of the last 12 games between the Pens and Panthers, five have gone beyond regulation. They've definitely had their fair share of battles and this was one of them.
  • Interesting stat, referenced by Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey: in the Pens last 12 home games, the Pens have fallen behind eight times and won each of them.
  • The penalty kill has been stellar, stopping 30 of the last 31 penalties.
  • Theodore has an unbelievable 20-5-2 record against Pens.
  • Throughout the game, Chris Kunitz had some great backchecks both in the offensive and defensive zone. This guy's defensive strength isn't touted highly enough.
  • Malkin has gone 9 for 12 on shootout this season. I remember once upon a time when he couldn't hit anything in the shootout.
  • The Pens have won eight games when training after two periods. That ties them with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first in the NHL. Since the lockout, the Stanley Cup Champion team has always been in the top 10 in that department. Keep that in mind.
Pens are ridding an eight-game winning streak. Times are feeling good right now.

Sunday will be a tough game regardless; the Boston Bruins have given the Pens a lot of grief at Consol. But with the possible return of a certain captain, maybe the Pens can direct the grief back to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions?

Gotta stay focused; the playoffs are looming and the Pens are creeping up on Eastern Conference leaders, the New York Rangers.

Go Pens.
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