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Skatin on blades like Sidney Crosby; Pens down Panthers 3-2 in OT

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The Penguins may have looked disinterested for much of this game, but the fact is the Florida Panthers just have a way of frustrating Penguin players AND fans.  From Sidney Crosby fighting Keith Ballard and Brett McLean last season to Tomas Vokoun playing like Dominik Hasek, the black and gold have had their problems with Florida.

Scoring was started on an awesome play by Stephen Weiss.  He drew Sergei Gonchar with him across the ice and pulled Brooks Orpik out of position before firing a perfect pass to a wide open Nathan Horton.  Horton received the puck and buried it by Marc-Andre Fleury for the 1-0 lead.

The Panthers would make it 2-0 in the 2nd period when Keith Ballard took a nice pass from Michael Frolik and snapped it past Fleury.  Going into the last intermission that was the score, the Pens were showing little signs of life, and what signs they did were extingushed by Tomas Vokoun.  The Pens had out-shot Florida 28-10 through two, but it was 2-0 on the only scoreboard that mattered.

Then, luckily Pittsburgh decided to get dirty.  Five minutes in Brooks Orpik took a big shot from the point, Pascal Dupuis got in front of the net and deflected the puck that took another bounce off Vokoun and finally in the net.  2-1 Florida.

With less than three minutes left, Craig Adams, Evgeni Malkin and Noted Goal Scorer Mike Rupp had a great shift that culminated in Malkin finding Rupp in front and the noted one finding paydirt.  2-2 going into over-time.

OT saw a somewhat controversial call when Orpik checked Nathan Horton, and on the follow through Horton's stick struck Orpik, drawing blood.  The rulebook states a player must always be in control of his stick under all situations, and there's no doubt Horton hit Orpik.  A double-minor was assessed and then Malkin and Crosby did their thing.  Game on the line, Crosby finished it on a Malkin rebound for the win.

  • Keith Ballard is one of those guys who always frustrates Crosby and the Pens.  He's not the biggest but is a solid all-around defenseman.  He should be on Team USA for the Olympics.
  • Florida debuted their new third jersey for this game.  Some people think they look like the University of Maine.  They kind of resemble the University of New Hampshire.  Or maybe if the Penguins 3rd jersey knocked up the St. Louis Blues 3rd jersey and they had a jersey baby.  That's about what it looks like.
  • Aside from the goal, Mike Rupp earned his bones when he stood up for Evgeni Malkin.  Geno was unceremoniously dumped to the ice after the whistle by Bryan Allen.  You can't have that, good to see Rupp standing up for a star and fighting Allen.  Even better: watch the end of the fight when Allen tries to run away and Rupp punches the back of his head, knocking Allen into the glass.
  • Eric Godard got a grand total of two shifts and 1:28 of ice-time tonight.  Woo!
  • Only Godard, Mark Eaton and Martin Skoula didn't record shots tonight for the Pens.  They threw 45 shots on Vokoun, who once again played amazing against Pittsburgh.
  • Sergei Gonchar seemed to be quiet; he did look silly on the game's first goal, but at the end of the night he lead all Penguins with 27:48 in ice-time, no small feat when they're playing without three of their best six defensemen.
  • At the end of the night, after two dirty, ugly goals, the big dogs came through.  Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for 14 shots on the night, Sid won 12 of his 19 faceoffs and scored the game winner drilling the puck by Vokoun in overtime on the power play.

So when we wake up tomorrow morning, after all the inconsistent play, the injuries and discontent the Penguins are #1 in the East tomorrow morning.  They're the two time defending Eastern Conference champions and still on the top of the heap. 

The Panthers are always a pesky opponent for Pittsburgh, and they were no less than that tonight.  With the firepower the Pens have, a two goal disadvantage doesn't mean anything going into the 3rd period, even with a tough goalie in their way.  The Pens got the win and can move forward to a day break before three games in four days this holiday weekend, starting at home with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.