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Penguins vs. Panthers Recap: Caterwauled. Pens lose in game of tough bounces

Pittsburgh falls 4-2 in Florida after they don’t get a bounce and Florida does. Sometimes it bes like that.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

First period

A pretty boring first period, but that’s not the worst thing in the world for a road team with a lot of talent on the injured list like the Penguins.

About the most interesting thing was a 3-on-1 for Florida (led by no less than Aleksander Barkov) that actually had a Panther player as the 4th player — though he was out of the play. Anyways, that the chance was neutralized by a well-timed defensive slide made by Justin Schultz.

Other than that, the defensive TOI, all at even strength in the first, was really interesting.

Jack Johnson- 4:59

Erik Gudbranson- 5:32

Marcus Petterson- 6:40

Justin Schultz- 7:24

Kris Letang- 7:26

John Marino- 7:59

Pretty telling about how the coaches like which players and just how much of a John Marino month this season has been, even if he led Letang in minutes due to getting caught out late to make a switch a couple times, they’re comfortable sending him out.

The other takeaway from the first period was the excellent play of the Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon line. They were buzzing early and setting up chances, the best being Simon’s feed to Guentzel for a great shot that a sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky juust got a piece of stopping.

Second period

First half of the second was more of the same, pretty dull hockey. So then fittingly, the Panthers score a goal out of no where on a pretty routine shot. Noah Acciari just tosses one at net that Matt Murray punches upward with his blocker. Usually nothing more comes of this, but Murray ended up directing it slightly backwards and seemed to lose it in the lights, and it hit his back and dropped into the net behind him. A very bizarre goal to make it 1-0 Florida.

As it always seems to happen, one goal breaks open the dam and the Pens answer it just 1:03 later. Crosby changes and Teddy Blueger hops on the ice. Blueger is head-manned a puck by Simon then plays a nice give-and-go with Guentzel to have a wide open net for his second goal of the season. 1-1 game.

Florida gets the lead back with 2:00 left in the second period. Denis Malgin gets in alone and receives a nice pass from Jonathan Huberdeau.

Third period

The Pens had a chance to tie it, but Zach Aston-Reese’s shot only hit the post. Not long after, Florida would push the lead to two goals with Huberdeau tipping a point shot that eluded Murray. 3-1 FLA.

The Pens would battle back, second nice pass of the game by Guentzel through the top of the crease to Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist can chip enough of it past Bobrovsky and into the net to make it 3-2.

But that’s as close as they would get in this one. After Letang-Marino were on ice for a few against, interestingly enough they just went full power in chasing a goal to put Justin Schultz with Letang, as if it were a power play. Marino joined Marcus Pettersson on the other pair they used.

It was all for nothing though, with Florida scoring in the empty net.

Three final thoughts

  • Need a bit more beyond 87 and 59. Crosby and Guentzel were great in this game. However, the Pens lack of depth is starting to show. Jared McCann was quiet in a return from injury. Dominik Kahun? Not much, as usual. Aston-Reese hit a post, which was nice, but couldn’t put it in the net. Brandon Tanev isn’t paid for his offense but he didn’t have much to pitch in anyways. Blueger did well in a spot chance with Guentzel, but little away from that. The young fourth line “AHL guys” didn’t do much. The defense didn’t help. Is it fair to expect those types of guys to need to produce? Probably not, but Pittsburgh needs a bit more from beyond Crosby-Guentzel (and the player with them) to win.
  • Weird goals. Can’t fault Murray when Tanev screened him and Huberdeau tips a puck 20 feet out, but the first goal by Acciari is a tough one to concede in a 0-0 game when the offense is only showing signs of life because of basically two players. Can’t really scheme around fluke goals or deflections, but just a tough one to swallow on a night the Pens’ defense did well to only allow 21 shots pre-empty net.
  • Dumoulin missed. Brian Dumoulin’s injury absence for a second straight game stood out. A righty-righty Letang/Marino pairing isn’t going to play for much longer. It’s barely grinding through now. However the team is de-emphasizing and hiding Johnson and Gudbranson as much as possible (as well they need to) which leaves them with a big problem of just how to structure their top-4D without having a total anchor on it.

Now the Pens need to dig deep, the road only gets harder as they play tomorrow against a rested Tampa team. Perhaps Nick Bjugstad might be nearing a return, but no other reinforcements are on the immediate horizon for a team that right now looks like they desperately need more talent up front to compete.