Jake Guentzel is in for his first game of the season, knocking Drew O’Connor out of the lineup. The defense remains the same and the Penguins elect to get Casey DeSmith in for a season debut.
DeSmith makes a few nice stops to start the game, including when Guentzel takes a penalty three minutes into the game to send the Panthers to an early power play. The Pens kill it off and then get an early power play of their own when Chad Ruhwedel gets high-sticked.
The Pittsburgh power play continues to struggle and soon after it ends, Florida strikes. Carter Verhaeghe shoots from near the wall through some traffic and the puck eludes the tracking of DeSmith and ends up in the net 9:17 into the game. 1-0 Panthers.
The Pens get a second power play but again do very little with it. Florida gets a golden chance soon after it ends to extend their league with a clean 2-on-1, but DeSmith stands tall with a big glove save to keep his team close.
Brian Dumoulin takes a holding penalty, despite not really holding the player so, that’s fun. The Pens kill off a second Florida power play before the end of the first period.
Shots in the first are 12-8 Florida. The Pens had a few looks at the net, but no sustained pressure or success on the forecheck that they did on Tuesday.
Kasperi Kapanen makes his presence known in the game, but it’s by going to the penalty box. The Pens make it 3/3 in killing penalties though.
But Florida makes it 2-0 anyways a bit later. After a turnover in the offensive zone, Anthony Duclair uses his speed to exploit the Pens’ scrambling back on defense. DeSmith successfully poke checks the puck away from Duclair, but unfortunately for Pittsburgh that puck flutters up, hits Mark Friedman and then bounces into the goal. A bit of bad luck, that. Counts just the same, though.
Duke drives to the net, good times ensue. pic.twitter.com/NKINffA48H— Jameson Olive (@JamesonCoop) October 15, 2021
Kris Letang goes to the box for a cross-check, evened up to 4v4 play when Ted Blueger gets tripped. Jason Zucker gets a breakaway but is denied by the post on his backhanded shot. Verhaeghe gets a penalty to make it a short 4v3 then 47 seconds of a 5v3 for Pittsburgh.
They do little with it, but then the penalty parade continues with Mackenzie Weegar getting two minutes for roughing and then he gets rung up for an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for mouthing off to the refs a bit more than they liked.
The Pens take a timeout to get their top group a breath of air with a new 5v3 coming, but they fail to score. Still have three+ minutes of 5v4 time, so all is well, right?
Apparently so. Dominik Simon keeps the puck alive along the boards after a zone entry (nice, subtle play!) and Danton Heinen gets the puck in space. Heinen rifles the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky for his second goal in as many games this season and the Pens are on the board. 2-1 FLA.
First Penguins goal against the Lightning.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 15, 2021
First Penguins goal against the Panthers.
Danton Heinen is off to a solid start! pic.twitter.com/viS6Ix8SoK
And luckily, Heinen scored during Weegar penalty, which left a fresh 2:00 minute 5v4 for the Pens to work with on yet another power play. They can’t score right there, but Florida takes yet ANOTHER penalty and the Pens get to crackin. Jeff Carter slings a puck to the net that deflects off a Panther and in the net, as some of that luck evens out. 2-2.
Shots in the second period are 17-10 Pittsburgh, thanks to many a power play chance. In fact, of the first 40 minutes played, the Pens have been on a power play for 10:32, over a quarter of the game.
Letang goes back to the box for not too much, as the refs start evening up the calls a bit. DeSmith with a brilliant save on Sam Reinhart from point blank range.
Eight minutes in, the Pens strike. Guentzel is back and looks Crosby-esque behind the net, with the goalie way out of the net. Guentzel throws it in front to bank it in off someone, and it does! 3-2 Pens.
Jake Guentzel putting on a hockey clinic out there pic.twitter.com/18cAgTF4hH— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 15, 2021
Just 30 seconds later the boys are officially buzzin’ when the second line gets a great shift in the o-zone. Kasperi Kapanen takes a big hit to make a play and Zucker hits the post. The rebound goes to Evan Rodrigues in front and he gets it in on the second attempt. 4-2 Pens.
Then it becomes the Aaron Ekblad show. After the mother of all net-front scrambles that features all six Penguin players on the ice in or around the net, Ekblad eventually collects the puck and throws it into the open cage. This feels like somehow it shouldn’t be a goal, but...it’s a goal. 4-3 Pens still up for now.
Ekblad's 1st of the season makes it a 1-goal game. pic.twitter.com/pftoY5CQio— Jameson Olive (@JamesonCoop) October 15, 2021
Until Ekblad ties the game after jumping up in the play and ripping a backhand shot over DeSmith’s shoulder. DeSmith wasn’t out very far due to the pressure, so that leaves some room up top when a goalie his size is dropped in the butterfly. 4-4 game with 4:53 remaining in regulation.
Nothing but respect for my 2022 Norris Trophy winner.— Jameson Olive (@JamesonCoop) October 15, 2021
Ekblad is back! pic.twitter.com/LK36gxPscF
Duclair gets sent off on a minor penalty to give the Pens an eighth power play and chance to potentially win the game late, but they can’t....Then with 1:37 left, Bobrovsky clears a rolling puck over the glass for an automatic call for a NINTH Pittsburgh power play. It doesn’t last long as Kapanen gets rung up for a hook to make it 4v4.
Shots in the third are 20-15, in a very wild and spirited period. The Pens scored twice, but couldn’t hold onto a lead and now it’s time for overtime.
Pittsburgh starts out with: Carter-Guentzel-Letang..They don’t do much.
Game opens up a bit, Rodrigues gets a great chance to win with a breakaway, but Bobrovsky keeps the five hole close. Stop at one end almost always a big chance coming the other way and that happens. Barkov on the ensuing rush sets up Verhaeghe on the left and he picks a spot on DeSmith and buries it. 5-4 Florida wins.
- Mid-way through the first period, Steve Mears on the AT&T Sportsnet broadcast made an accurate and a bit exasperated comment asking out-loud if Aleksander Barkov had been on the ice all game long. It certainly felt like Barkov was. Barkov played 8:58 in the first period (one second more than Kris Letang!) and beyond just physically being out there he was impactful seemingly at all times too. Special player there, and a really, really good one.
- After taking only one penalty on Tuesday, the Pens were way too sloppy and careless tonight, giving Florida four power plays. They killed them, which was good, but not the way they wanted to play. Then again, these refs were calling a lot more, so perhaps it was unavoidable.
- The flip side of that coin meant lots of power plays. In the one sequence in the middle of the 2nd period, the Pens had 47 seconds of a 5v3 and then 28 more seconds of a 5v3. Couldn’t get there, though Florida kept taking so many penalties that eventually the Pens generated two goals. It took six power plays and 9:09 of PP game time to get the first goal though, not exactly efficient but luckily the Panthers kept giving them chances.
- Without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, falling down 1-0 is a bad sign. Going down 2-0 looks a like a really deep hole. The Pens made a habit of multi-goal comebacks during games last season, but with the personnel they have now, that’s not likely to become a habit. They were able to get out of it tonight, but thanks to a lot of power play time.
- Bryan Rust left in the first shift of the third period after absorbing a very heavy open ice hit. Rust would not be able to return. Another reason why it’s futile to even make up “lines when the Penguins are 100% healthy” because...Well, that never happens.
- A goal and nine shots on goal for Guentzel tonight in his first game of the season. Not bad for a player whose a product of playing with Sidney Crosby!
- Up and down game for DeSmith, made a couple of really good stops. Had some bad luck end up in his net early in the game. Probably needed one more save on the last Ekblad goal while up 4-3 late in a game to get on out of there. Didn’t find that one, but the Pens wouldn’t have gotten to overtime without DeSmith making a few solid saves prior to that, either.
72 hours ago if you were told the Pens would go 1-0-1 in Florida, given these roster challenges, would you complain? You shouldn’t! Pretty successful road trip, aside from losing Rust in this game. We’ll see how his status is, but the good news is the schedule isn’t exactly ripe with games in the next week or so.
Pens go home for the first game of the season on Saturday night.