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Panthers double up the Pens 4-2, Crosby fights again

Coming into this game the Penguins had gotten points in16 of their last 17 contests.  Better make that 16 of 18, as the Florida Panthers, playing for their playoff lives, beat the Pens 4-2.  Pittsburgh looked like a tired team that wanted to win, Florida looked like a team that knew they had to win.  That pretty much was the difference and it showed in the final score.

  • What will make Puck Daddy tomorrow, of course, is what happened with about two minutes left in the first period.  Florida defensemen Keith Ballard had Evgeni Malkin lined up and drilled him feet over head as the big Russian was skating down the boards, trying to pull a pass from his feet up to his stick.  Sidney Crosby, being a good captain and perhaps a little embarassed that his poor pass put Malkin in that position, went over to Ballard and they tussled.  Ballard got the better of the scrum, but all of his punches hit Sid's helmet. 
  • For Ballard at least he didn't get straight up jumped by the Pens, unlike last week when Ballard made a similiar clean hit on the Flyer's Scott Hartnell.
  • At that point it was a 1-1 game, but before the period ended, Bryan McCabe stepped into a big shot and gave Florida the lead they would never give back. (not the last time you'll see that sentence.
  • While killing a penalty in the dying moments of the second period, with the game still at 2-1, Rob Scuderi took a delayed penalty and Jay Bouwmeester got the puck over to David Booth for a slam dunk goal.  Goals in the last minute of the period are such daggers, and this one game Florida a two-goal edge going into the room.
  • The loss wasn't for a lack of putting the puck to the net, the Penguins got 43 shots on Tomas Vokoun, but a lot of them were bad angles or outside shots.  Take nothing away from Vokoun, he was good when he had to be, but the Penguins didn't really challenge him too much for most of the evening.
  • A lot may be made of the little mini-slumps that Crosby and Malkin are going through.  I don't think it's a big deal.  Both are still getting chances, both are taking shots, both are creating offense, stuff just isn't going in right now.  That's bound to happen.  If anything maybe it's better now than a week or two from now.
  • The Penguins had quiet games from guys like Petr Sykora, Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin.  Didn't seem like the key supporting cast really contributed too much.  On the other hand I thought Pascal Dupuis (goal) and Tyler Kennedy (assist, three shots on goal) both generally played solid and forceful games.
  • On a day where the announcers said the outside temperature was 90+ in southern Florida the puck looked like a bouncy ball at points, rolling around like crazy.  I'm not trying to make excuses, the Panthers had to play on the same sheet and everything, just making an observation, wasn't the best ice day out there.
  • Pete DeBoer might just get my vote for the Jack Adams coach of the year award if he sees his team into the playoffs here...You know, if I had a vote.

So no clinching of a playoff berth today, but the Penguins are still in reasonably decent positioning.  It seems like they have lost too much ground on Carolina/Philly to think about the 4th seed right now, they seem more destined to be a 6/7 seed right now.  But in this crazy race that could all be different in a few days, so who knows. 

The only thing the Pens can control, of course, is what they do in their next game, which is a game in Tampa Tuesday against the Lightning who are in full collapse mode.  TB has been limping down the stretch, losers of six straight games and nine of their last ten.  Perfect chance to get back on track for Pittsburgh.