For about 39 minutes the Pittsburgh Penguins were playing the perfect road game against the Florida Panthers. The game was quiet and the Pens were playing from the lead courtesy of the early first period deflection goal by Patric Hornqvist. Then the game seemed to turn late in the second period when Kris Letang stepped up and made a big (clean) hit on Nick Bjugstad.
That seemed to wake the Panthers up, they would play a lot more physical including Sean Bergenheim laying a very heavy hit on Bobby Farnham that momentarily phased the Penguin.
Ask any coach the most critical goals and they'll point to goals in the last minute of the period or the first. Florida covered both bases. Ex-Penguin Jussi Jokinen broke the ice with a goal on a stick-less Marc-Andre Fleury with 37 seconds left in the second period. Then 22 seconds into the third Jimmy Hayes drove to the net and rattled a puck past Fleury to give the Panthers a lead.
Hayes would pad the lead later in the third before Nick Spaling cut it to one by deflecting a Derrick Pouliot wristed shot from the point.
Then Evgeni Malkin tied the game with just over 3 minutes left in the game by jamming a third effort in past Robero Luongo to force an exciting, but goal-less over time that featured both teams trading chances and playing some fun hockey.
A shootout of course follows with both teams failing to score on each of their first six shooters. Then in round 7 Simon Despres failed and Alexander Barkov did not, boosting Florida to the gimmick win.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Not worth putting a ton of stock in this one. With the news that Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie had to go back to Pittsburgh this morning for mumps testing, the Pens were short-handed with key depth guys down.
- To make matters worse on the injury front, Blake Comeau left the game in the third period and would not return after getting slashed and going hard into the boards hands/wrists first.
- The Pens had their chances. Chris Kunitz hit a post. Hornqvist got robbed with a big save by Roberto Luongo.
- The top PP is sputtering. Seems like too much puck movement around the perimeter between Malkin, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby and not enough bodies moving or shots on net. Of course, no one was complaining when they were clicking at 30-40% before the injuries struck. That said, still frustrating to deal with a unit that isn't playing up to lofty expectations. Spaling scored a PP goal to salvage the %, but the varsity unit was on the ice for 5:30 minutes with no results.
- Two assists for the night for Simon Despres who was very good, less taking a slashing penalty that ended up being a goal a few seconds after the penalty expired.
- 21 of the 27 Penguins shots in regulation were taken by just 5 players. Letang, Kunitz, Crosby, Malkin and Comeau. Again, without a lot of depth, not worth reading into a ton, just interesting that on this night other than the usual suspects, not a ton going on.
- Marcel Goc did well with extra work, taking a team high 26 faceoffs and winning 16 of them for a solid 62%.
Sadly, the injury march is not over yet, as the Pens go to Tampa for a game tomorrow before their brief Christmas break begins.