Sometimes you have one of those games where you find it difficult to get any sense of what to write in a recap. And then Tyler Kennedy gives you a gift by throwing a body check on an icing call, and suddenly Tomas Kopecky puts the Panthers up by 1 with just over six minutes remaining in the first. Assists went to Brian Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov.
Up to that point, the game had been a slow affair with not much going on aside from a great chance by Drew Shore that Tomas Vokoun refused to allow.
And then the period ended. Seriously, that was close to the most boring period of hockey I've seen since the trapping days in New Jersey.
The Penguins must have heard the thoughts in my head. Less than a minute into the second period, James Neal took a pass from Sidney Crosby and ripped a wrist shot by Jose Theodore from the half wall. Granted, Theodore was cheating badly, thinking that Sid was playing a give-and-go, but real goal scorers take advantage of those small openings, and, well, Neal didn't get his nickname for nothing. Assists went to Sid and Chris Kunitz.
The Penguins repaid the good luck by taking two penalties back to back—one on Matt Cooke for smothering the puck, and another on Brooks Orpik for elbowing Tomas Kopecky, and Kopecky himself would pot his second of the night during the 5-on-3. Assists to Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Campbell, his second assist of the night.
The Penguins began beating a trail to the penalty box. Tomas Vokoun with a rough. Kris Letang with a cross check. Tanner Glass with a high stick. Brooks Orpik with a hook. Pascal Dupuis with a hold. And suddenly, Brian Campbell scored followed by Marcel Goc to make the score 4-1. All of Florida's goals to this point were on the power play. Assists went to Kulikov, Shore, Kopecky, and Fleischmann, in that order. This goal would escort Vokoun off the ice in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury. It's hard to argue with this despite the fact that the PK utterly failed to do anything resembling a kill during this stretch.
Dustin Jeffrey would stop the bleeding almost immediately after the Goc goal when, somehow, the puck got through Theodore and rolled across the line to make the score 4-2, assisted by Orpik and Beau Bennett. However, another penalty, this time a goaltender interference on Kunitz. This time, though, a giveaway to Kunitz as he was coming out of the box led directly to a Paul Martin slapshot rending the space-time continuum and ending up in the back of the net. 4-3. The sole assist went to James Neal.
Another penalty, this one to Neal for hooking. If nothing else, though, the goalie change seemed to spark the PK unit into, you know, actually doing something, so that's good.
Then, perhaps the second-strangest penalty I've ever seen Jonathan Huberdeau played the puck while exiting the bench. For lack of anything better to call it, this earned him an interference penalty. Kunitz would score here, assisted by Crosby, to tie the score at 4, but even this was not a simple matter. The goal, you see, was actually scored into his own net, ignominiously, as all such goals are, by Mike Weaver when he tried to block the shot and instead managed to deflect it past Theodore. After I finished having a Josef Melichar flashback, I realized that the period had ended.
The Panthers decided to trot out Scott Clemmensen to start the third period, and the Penguins went on the power play when Fleischmann tripped Crosby. Just like one of the Penguins goals, though, Fleischmann picked up a goal, the 100th of his career, on his way out of the penalty box to make the score 5-4. The lone assist went to Jerred Smithson.
Tomas Kopecky would finish the hat trick with one minute remaining when he threw a long-distance prayer at the empty net and hit it. Unfortunately, that's how the game would end. Well, that, and a rubber rat on the ice, bringing back the awful memories of 1996.
- Despite the slow appearance of the first period, shots were 12-8 favoring Florida, and hits were 15-8 favoring Pittsburgh, so perhaps appearances were somewhat deceiving. Either way, Pittsburgh wasn't generating a whole lot of offense.
- The second period exploded. Shots were 15-11 for the Panthers. The Panthers had 5 power plays and scored on three of them.
- The Penguins did carry play in the third period, outshooting Florida 15-8. Unfortunately, too little, too late.
- The penalty kill in this game was the team's undoing. You cannot give up four power play goals and win games. End of story.