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Penguins Panthers recap: Pens drop Cats 3-1 in gritty game

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In a very chippy, nasty game the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Florida Panthers by a score of 3-1 in a game that featured the first NHL goal from Derrick Pouliot in his first game.

Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

I've been told "Anchorman" quotes are timely and always well received, so in the words of Ron Burgundy, "Wow! That escalated quickly!"

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers scrapped, jawed, barked, fought, hit, slashed, tripped and facewashed each other through a slog of a game. The first period took almost an hour in real time. The second period wasn't much quicker. By the end of 40 minutes the teams racked up a combined 70 minutes in penalties, led by Steve Downie getting 17 after getting a 10 minute misconduct for post-fight antics after a spirited bout with Erik Gudbrandson.

Gudbranson, by the way, is approximately this much taller than Downie.

downierules

Prior to that, Bobby Farnham bloodied prized rookie Aaron Ekblad during a collision- even though it was mainly just because Farnham has a similar size discrepancy in the picture above, and his helmet smashed into Ekblad. You had Dave Bolland slashing Sidney Crosby on the hand, and then Willie Mitchell swinging Kris Letang 's own helmet at his head during a "fight" that saw NHL refs in the middle.

Yep, it was a mess.

Back to the game - and they did play a game - Nick Spaling gave the Pens an early 1-0 lead when his knuckling long-range shot fooled Roberto Luongo . Probably a stop Luongo makes 99 times out of a 100, but this one just eluded his glove as he brought it across his body.

Then Downie, in the hockey portion of the game before his near psychotic meltdown, made a beautiful cross-ice pass (video here) to Derrick Pouliot who roofed an amazing shot by Luongo for a 2-0 Pens lead. Pittsburgh looked like they might be off to the races, but Florida and Luongo stabilized as the game de-stabilized and a lot of the craziness of a few paragraphs above unfolded, with Vince Trocheck scoring his third goal of the season on the power play to make it 2-1 Pens.

Later in the 3rd period the game finally settled down and the Pens struck again. Simon Despres found time and space and made a smart play to Letang. Letang stepped up, hesitated for a second and made a slick no-look pass to Crosby, standing wide-open next to the net to shovel it home.

That would be the last goal of the game, but not before Marc-Andre Fleury tried once again for another empty net goal. Sadly, it wasn't to be tonight. Shame, with as crazy as the rest of the game was, this could have been the one. Fleury will have to settle for 45 saves on 46 shots and another win.

And a few more thoughts on the game:

  • Saw someone on twitter call Bobby Farnham the Tasmanian Devil on hockey skates. Fitting. Still not sold on the long-term utility of a guy without much in the way of skills or PK ability, but Farnham did draw 2 penalties tonight, and unlike a lot of the guys to grace (disgrace?) the Pens 4th line of recent years, Farnham can at least play with the puck a little, keep cycles going, and keep the puck out of his own end.
  • Crosby briefly left the game after getting cracked in his hand/wrist, and when he came back, he got high-sticked. When he removed his glove to tend to his face, his hand was heavily taped. For a guy who battled a wrist injury last spring, how his goal scoring might be affected here will be worth watching. Crosby did have 5 shots on goal though, several dangerous, and of course had the easy chip in courtesy of the Letang pass.
  • Crosby did win over 50% of his faceoffs (52% with 15 wins on 29 draws to be exact) so at least there's that. Last season when he had his injury, his faceoff percentage cratered. Maybe a good sign that at least that wasn't the case for this game.
  • Evgeni Malkin got hit with an embellishment penalty, and that's a dis-service. Bolland quite clearly trips Malkin with skate-to-skate contact that would have felled anyone. Hopefully the league can review this and rescind- being as multiple embellishment penalties accumulate into fines in the future.
  • Huge missed opportunity for the Pens to extend their lead in the first and second periods with significant power play time (5 in total). The top PP now has all their personnel back with tonight's return of Chris Kunitz, but they couldn't pop a goal in. Looked pretty good with puck movement and trying to shoot, so it's not terribly concerning but results matter and they couldn't get any.
  • The team had to lean more on Rob Scuderi tonight (20:33 total played) and even moreso after Kris Letang had to serve 5 minutes on a fighting major. Paired with Pouliot, Scuderi also seemed to be more involved with zone exits and made less "buddy passes" in his own end with a brand new partner.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury stood tall- somehow the Panthers recorded 21 shots in the first period alone. Sure didn't feel like it, but numbers never lie or so they say. While the rest of the game was hectic, Fleury remained calm and played a great game. He got lucky with a couple of posts helping him, and one cross-crease puck that he could have accidentally kicked in the net, but he did more than his job.
  • Pens improve to 14-1-3 when registering 30+ shots on goal in a game...Even though that's a little misleading being as they gave up a lot more shots tonight.
  • Pouliot left a positive impact on the game with his goal early, but he also had 2 official giveaways on the scorecard (including one a bad pass up the middle that quickly turned into a shot attempt against that Pouliot's partner blocked), showing that he still is very green. He's good, but he's far from a finished product. But it's great to see him get a chance in the NHL and be able to contribute right off the bat. He's very fun to watch.
  • Despres was great with his assist and the score keeper gave him 10 hits. 10! The rest of the Pens team only had 21 combined.
  • The rest of the Pens young d ( Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington ) had quiet games. But quiet isn't bad when you're that new. Harrington played 3:29 short-handed and looked pretty good doing so.
  • Speaking of quiet, did you know Spaling (1g, 1a tonight) as 12 points in the last 21 games? As our own @mikedarnay pointed out, a Spaling - Marcel Goc - Downie line looks pretty good.
  • It was weird to see a Penguins game without Craig Adams tooling around out there. First time the Pens have played a meaningful game since October 16, 2010 without Adams dressed. But with Farnham's energy and Bryan Rust looking pretty decent every game, his loss isn't really a big deal. Just odd to the eye.
  • Bold move by Florida to pull their goalie with 4 minutes to go in the game, while they were on the PP and losing by 2. I dig it. Don't lose anything for losing, and getting a 6-on-4 advantage could really help.

So, that's that. And these teams get a day to think about how much they hate each other, so we'll see if anything changes for Monday's game. Go Pens.