About as expected for Pittsburgh, Matt Murray gets the start on the first night of the back-to-backs for the third time in three occurrences.
Take a look at tonight's forward lines and defense pairings. pic.twitter.com/iJCkurx5zw— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 20, 2017
Ian Cole takes a high-sticking penalty just seven seconds into the game. The Penguins kill it off but never really seem to get into the game and Jamie McGinn scores after beating the Pens defense to a loose puck that Murray didn’t control.
#FlaPanthers goal by Jamie McGinn to put them up 1-0 early in the 1st. pic.twitter.com/39zLeMb0V3— David Eversole (@SportsAllDave) October 20, 2017
The sloppy play continues with a weak clearing effort/pass from Sidney Crosby that the Panthers jump on and keep in the zone to keep their cycle going. Eventually Brian Dumoulin loses his stick (not good!) and can’t defend a pass to Aleksander Barkov who hammers another one by Murray and it’s 2-0 FLA before the first TV timeout.
Just like that Aleksander Barkov puts the #FlaPanthers up 2-0 vs Pittsburgh. pic.twitter.com/LqfQMivNSA— David Eversole (@SportsAllDave) October 20, 2017
The Pens take yet another penalty and Bryan Rust is able to generate a great SH chance, but Roberto Luongo makes a big save on him. Shots in the period end up 11-11 but score is 2-0. Luongo is playing well, the Pens on the other hand...Not so much.
The Pens get off to a better start in the second, earning their first power play of the night which lasts all of 7 seconds before Evgeni Malkin tips a puck in from the front of the net. 2-1 FLA.
Always go to the front of the net. pic.twitter.com/lvp49OOd1X— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 21, 2017
Make that 2-2, Carter Rowney ties the score 30 seconds after the first goal, with his first goal of the season.
The Pens get a second power play when Phil Kessel gets slashed, and they score a second power play goal with some amazing puck movement and shots by the top PP unit. Finally, Malkin fires a centering effort for Crosby to tip in from right in front, and my goodness that’s one of the prettier sequences that you’ll see. 3-2 Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby pots one on the power play to give the Penguins the 3-2 lead! pic.twitter.com/HLzqD1horr— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) October 21, 2017
Shots for the period (period!!) end up 22-13 for the Pens. They really poured it on.
Weird play about 5 minutes into the 3rd, Sheary tries to cut the corner on Luongo, who as goalies are apt to do is trying to run a little interference in front of the net. Except Luongo’s hand/thumb/blocker get caught up and pinned, causing an injury. Weird happening, Bobby Lou had to leave the game, hopefully he is OK, never like to see a legend get hurt and especially on a freak thing.
Florida keeps clawing (ah ah ah) and ties the game with rookie defenseman Mackenzie Weegar showing great patience to fake a shot, wait and then fire through traffic to score and tie the game at 3.
This was @weega52's first NHL goal. pic.twitter.com/HdWPbVsinP— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) October 21, 2017
The Pens get a 4th power play and a 3rd power play goal, this time from the second group when Olli Maatta makes a beautiful pass (oft-repeated line this recap season) this time to Conor Sheary who bursts past the defense with speed and scores on the backhand to give the Pens a late lead 4-3.
- Another slow start and really no excuses, the Pens pretty clearly aren’t interested in nagging things like “60 minute effort” or “team defense”. Long season and somewhat understandably they’re not playing like the Cup is on the line in October. Surely that doesn’t ease fan and coaching frustrations.
- Right from the beginning, the Pens are the most penalized team in the league. So what do they do? Take a high-stick 7 seconds into the game. A defenseman gets outskated to the net after the forwards do nothing to slow a breakout against them. Poor clearing attempts. And a goalie who’s leaving rebounds and not stopping everything.
- Improvements are needed all around, but this team doesn’t look like they want to buckle down, they look like they want to play 5-4 or 6-5 games every night. Or 4-3. Whatever. You score a few, we’ll score one more. That pretty much seems to be the team mindset these days. A bit aggravating, and the defensive/goalie stats sure don’t look pretty but with now 5 wins in the last 6 games, the pretty much are good enough to do just enough to win.
- Interesting tactic for coach Mike Sullivan in the first period, his first adjustment is to put Crosby with Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist (the 3rd line wingers) for some double-shifting and he would leave them that way for the rest of the game.
- One other note would seem to be, if not a “benching”, certainly a message to Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel. The two played soft with the puck, got caught out for 3 long shifts against in the first period...And they only had 2 shifts (and 0:41 total a piece) over the second half of the first period.
- Obviously wasn’t a total benching, and Sheary rewards the team with a late PPG for the eventual game-winner. Still didn’t like all of his decisions with the puck or away from the puck but you can’t argue speed and skill.
- Hey, take out those ugly first 6-7 minutes and it was an easy 4-1 Pens win. It works that way, right?
- The amount of abuse Patric Hornqvist takes in front of the net, and the amount of attention he commands just makes such a difference for the rest of the group to be able and work the puck around and eventually get the puck to the net.
- Barkov pretty much took Sid’s lunch-money in the faceoff circle tonight.
- In a minor but intriguing on-going storyline, Ryan Reaves got a season-high 9:23 (the somewhat benched Sheary and Guentzel only had 9:42 and 10:45, respectively). 1 SOG, 1 takeaway, and a +1 on the night for Reaves. He played a normal shift and we can all breathe easy, everything was OK.
- Speaking of benched, a team-low 7:54 total tonight for Greg McKegg. Rose coming off the bloom? McKegg’s low time meant lots of ES TOI for Crosby (16+), Malkin (15) and Rowney (11) on the night.
- And, I guess if we’re gonna bitch about taking too many penalties, we can at least acknowledge and applaud that the Pens stayed out of the box for the last 43:30 of the game, and the Panthers went 4 times in the same stretch. That plus a 3/4 PP on the night was the difference in the game at the end of it.
Wasn’t always pretty, especially early, but shots ended up a fairly commanding 48-31 in favor of Pittsburgh. High octane hockey is alive and well, and if anyone wants to trade chances and power plays, well step right up and try your luck when the two-time reigning, defending, undisputed defending champs come to town. Tampa? You’re up tomorrow.