The Penguins welcome back both Marcus Pettersson and Chad Ruhwedel from the COVID list and back to the lineup. P.O. Joseph is a healthy scratch to give a 2LHD - 4 RHD look for this game. Tristan Jarry is in net for his fifth straight start.
Jeff Carter goes to the box for a hooking penalty and the Panthers get the first power play of the game. Patric Hornqvist looks as crazed and dogged as ever trying to score a goal in his first game back in Pittsburgh since being traded but is unable to. Jonathan Huberdeau rings a shot off the post but otherwise the Pens hold.
Kasperi Kapanen matches Huberdeau with a post shot of his own a bit later, but the iron is unforgiving as the puck clangs into the corner of the rink.
It’s a fast moving first period without too many whistles early, and it’s in that stretch the Pens get the game’s first goal. Kris Letang jumps up in the offensive zone and the Panthers get caught all watching the puck a bit as Letang makes a great backhanded centering pass. Teddy Blueger’s watching the puck too, but it’s coming to him and he snaps it by Sergei Bobrovsky. 1-0 Pens.
Tonight we're honoring the red, white, and BLUEGER GOAL! pic.twitter.com/l9tXCzQb3p— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 12, 2021
That goal really awakens the Panthers, Aleksander Barkov gets a breakaway but Tristan Jarry stops him. Then it’s Bobrovsky’s turn to make two breakaway saves on Jeff Carter and Jake Guentzel as the Pens’ stars find some room of their own and get some nice chances.
The wide-open play swings back to Florida’s favor and they score on a 2-on-1. Anton Lundell makes a nice pass over Chad Ruhwedel and Frank Vatrano is there to quickly score on Jarry as he moves laterally. 1-1 game.
Lundell with the finesse, Vatrano with the finish.— Jameson Olive (@JamesonCoop) November 12, 2021
Amazing stuff from the 20-year-old rookie. pic.twitter.com/ITlqgjhvpS
Aaron Ekblad gets rung up for holding the stick and the Pens’ get a power play. Carter and Bryan Rust get a couple of good chances, but same story for the Pittsburgh power play: no goals.
Shots in the first were 13-12 Pittsburgh.
The Panthers almost take the lead early with their first line out against the Pens’ fourth line and Mike Matheson...um, ends up somehow taking out his own goalie. But Carter Verhaeghe’s shot hits the outside of the net.
Florida off to their second power play of the night, with the same player going back to the box in Carter after flipping the puck off the ice. The Pens’ PK holds.
Pittsburgh gets their second power play with 8:25 left. No goal, but some zone time and shots at least.
The teams then trade seemingly endless odd-man 3-on-2, 4-on-2, 2-on-1 rushes with one another and the Pens capitalize. Jason Zucker feeds a streaking Evan Rodrigues who shoots on the rush to send Pittsburgh to a 2-1 lead with 2:07 left in the period.
A huge celebration, but an even bigger goal pic.twitter.com/xgzKikp68I— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 12, 2021
With 15 seconds left, Kris Letang gets called for slashing.
Shots in the second are 11-6 FLA, and 23-19 Panthers overall in the game through 40 minutes, but it’s the Pens who carry a lead into the third.
The Pens kill off 1:45 of the carryover power play on fresh ice for Florida but they stay pinned in their end with tired players and the Panthers make them pay. Barkov gets a pass from down low and shoots back short-side on Jarry. 2-2 game with 17:30 left.
Pittsburgh gets another opportunity on the power play when Guentzel is tripped, and they get their best looks at the net yet, but Bobrovsky is able to keep the puck out.
Florida scores with 4:49 left, when Blueger’s weak clearing attempt barely leaves the zone (important!) and the Panthers get a 2-on-1 with Anthony Duclair sneaking in the back door and getting an easy goal. But the Pens challenge the call and the refs are able to see that the puck just barely did cross over the blueline. Score stays at 2-2, and the Pens are fortunate that didn’t cost them.
Nothing else happens, so for the fourth game in a row, it’s extra time.
Pens gain control and hold it for the first 30 seconds, culminating in Carter getting a shot. The Panthers then take over.
Mike Matheson gets a golden chance to end the game when Florida messes up a line change but his shot attempt doesn’t go so well.
Rough stretch for Bobrovsky as first his own guy trucks him, and then a second later, Guentzel cuts to the net and runs the goalie as well. Guentzel gets a goalie interference penalty with 1:31 left to send Florida to a 4v3 power play for the rest of the way.
The Panthers take a timeout to get their wits about them after the frantic OT play.
Brian Boyle, Zach Aston-Reese and John Marino are the first wave of PKers. Boyle wins the first faceoff and then Marino gets a clear.
Blueger, Brock McGinn and Ruhwedel are the next PKers, they maintain their structure long enough until the clock runs out. So now, the dreaded shootout.
Guentzel is up first, as usual, for the Pens. He dekes to the backhand but his shot hits Bob’s glove.
Barkov goes first for Florida, he comes in slowly, stickhandles and shoots to the forehand but Jarry uses the blocker to stop him.
Letang goes for the Pens, he dekes to the forehand but Bob’s glove again holds.
Huberdeau is up next, he goes slow to and makes a slick move to his backhand and tucks it through Jarry’s five hole.
It’s goal or go home for Bryan Rust - and Rust scores! Rust goes to the forehand and shoots just inside the post.
Hornqvist with the chance to beat his old team - but Jarry stops him!
Big Jeff is first in round four, he comes in with speed and dekes to the forehand to swing the puck in past an extended Bobrovsky.
Anton Lundell has to score or it’s over - and it’s over! Jarry holds his ground and stops the low shot. Pens win!
- Florida might not be the absolute fastest collection of skaters if you tick down their roster individually, but as a team they might play about the fastest in the league this year. Makes for a fun style and entertaining hockey.
- Perhaps too fun and free, with Joe Thornton currently on IR, the Panthers are icing a very young lineup (average age of healthy forwards: 25.8, and only Patric Hornqvist is above 28 years old). It’s OK, and even a good thing to run ‘n gun and use speed and young legs at this point of the season, but Florida is probably going to need to tighten up a bit as the season goes on.
- Marcus Pettersson left in the first game after taking a hard hit and did not return so the length of time where Evgeni Malkin was the Pens’ only injury lasted about half a period. Pettersson got drilled in the face it looked like by an elbow as players collided for the puck, tough to see.
- Nice to see some goal droughts broken tonight. Rodrigues scored his first in seven games, Blueger notched his first goal in the last nine. Those players are in pretty key roles in center positions and that requires some production, and tonight they doubled their combined 5v5 goals from two entering the night to four.
- The Mike Matheson experience was even more of an experience than normal in his first game against his old team. Looked like about 4 or 5 really bad pass attempts or clearing decisions in the first period alone. Matheson almost took out Jarry on what easily could have led to a goal against if Verhaeghe took an extra beat to get a better shot angle. Not sure if there were nerves or wanting to do more in the first time against his former team, but not one of Matheson’s better games in this one.
- First time April 2014 for the Pens to have four straight OT games. For a team in survival mode without Crosby, Malkin, Dumoulin and Sullivan, that’s not the worst thing in the world. Frustrating to lose some occasionally? Sure. But the Pens improve to 2-0-2 in the four OT games, which is playing at a 123 point pace over a full 82. That will work big time in general. Just keep finding ways. (And even if they lost tonight’s shootout to go 1-0-3 in the last four, that’s a 102 point pace, which is playoff-caliber).
- Nice to see Jarry bounce back with stopping three of four shootout stops. He was struggling big time on those this season, and his joyful, inspired arm pumps in celebration after the win definitely let off a lot of steam and got the proverbial monkey off his back to finally turn in a winning effort.
- Love Patric Hornqvist, but on a team with Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair and Owen Tippett all still available, you choose Hornqvist as the third shooter? Odd choice, but interim coaches tend to make curious decisions sometimes. (Of course, if it worked and was a walk off winner, he would have looked like a genius).
Sometimes the shootout giveth and sometimes the shootout taketh, but on this night the Pens balance out their luck and get the victory. For a team clinging and looking to hang on until the days pass and they can get more back from the COVID protocol, taking the two points against a first place team is a good night, by any means necessary.