The Penguins shuffle in three new bodies to the lineup — welcome to the National, Marc Johnstone! And welcome back Valtteri Puustinen and Jonathan Gruden to the the show. Radim Zohorna takes a seat and Alex Nylander + Joona Koppanen head back to Wilkes to make way for all these new faces
Here's how the Penguins are lining up tonight in Florida ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/fHbJ12uhta— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 8, 2023
The Panthers honor Patric Hornqvist with a very nice pregame video on his career.
A 230th overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft, Patric Hornqvist went on to— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) December 9, 2023
be a 2x Stanley Cup Champion, play over 900 regular season games, 100 postseason games, and win a World Championship Gold Medal pic.twitter.com/mxtpUVir99
Fairly good opening 20 for the Pens. They look like they have some jump and more energy than recent games. Pittsburgh out-shoots Florida 11-7 to open things up, can’t score on a power play chance and keep it steady to start out on the road.
Pittsburgh gets on the board first, Evgeni Malkin sets up Reilly Smith right in front of the net. Smith dekes to the backhand and then quickly shovels in a shot.
REILLY SMITH STRIKES AGAINST HIS FORMER TEAM! pic.twitter.com/aPWgePORRG— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 9, 2023
Florida gets two power plays, the Pens kill them both off but don’t get out totally unscathed. Oliver Ekman-Larsson pokes in a loose puck in a scramble shortly after a power play ends to tie the game at 1 with under three minutes to play.
OLIVER ‼️ EKMAN ‼️ LARSSON ‼️ pic.twitter.com/egfeJlmUIE— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) December 9, 2023
For an important third period in a tie game the Penguins suddenly look very slow and out of gas, for the first time in this game. All shots go out the window, the team can barely control the puck as the Panthers ratchet up the pressure.
The inevitable goal for Florida comes of an offensive zone draw. Lars Eller loses a faceoff cleanly and Evan Rodrigues shoots a quick, bad angle shot up high. Tristan Jarry can’t absorb it and leaves a big rebound. Etu Luostarinen does his old teammate Patric Hornqvist proud and deposits the rebound. Panthers take the lead with 13:50 remaining to play.
E-Rod ➡️ Luosty ➡️ Cats on top! pic.twitter.com/ktBNcCiKi9— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) December 9, 2023
With 2:39 left in the game, Anton Lundell hooks Jake Guentzel. It’s another chance for the Pens to break a now 0-for-36, 13 game, 25 day power play drought with the game on the line...And they almost immediately give up a shorthanded breakaway.
Jarry heads to the bench with 2:00 left to make it a 6v4. The Pens get some looks, cruelly Sergei Bobrovsky makes a really nice save from Guentzel shooting from point blank range and eventually Florida gets the puck out and scores on the empty net. 3-1 game.
- Vinnie Hinostroza went from healthy scratch one game to power play the next. Good grief. Makes little sense and brought about expected results in that the power play drought was not solved by a fringe NHL player being added to the group. Tune in next game to find out the next failing combination!
- It’s tough to win in this league with one goal (and also taking one shot on goal in the first 17+ minutes of a tight third period) so this isn’t a Tristan Jarry let the team down note, but it is hard not to notice his rebound control in the past game or two hasn’t been as sharp as it is when he’s completely on the top of his game.
- Bobrovsky was the reason the Pens only had a goal, though. He was great all night, including a pair of saves on Jake Guentzel (one on a clean breakaway in the second, and then in the closing moments of the contest) that could have had Pittsburgh in a better spot. Wasn’t to be though.
- Speaking of an item mentioned a little above, let’s not gloss over a point made. It’s a tie game in the third period and the Pens get out-shot 13-2 until getting a late power play? Brutal stuff. It was completely out of left field too, looked like a passable effort for the first 40, then collectively the whole team’s “video game controller got disconnected” meme happened in real life. If not for what I’m forced to write for seemingly the 100th time, that lack of effort and drive late would be the depressing part. Instead it settles for second place because....
- Even with a rotten third period, the Pens were still one power play conversion away from at least getting to overtime. That’s way too much to ask these days, but man. It’s all like right there for this team, they just somehow can’t or won’t go out and grab it.
- Really liked the idea by Kyle Dubas and Mike Sullivan to bring in three new forwards and play them all. Granted, none got a ton of ice time, but there’s no sense in trotting out the same old faces who aren’t doing anything. Given new players new opportunities is about all you can ask for, then at some point it becomes up to them to make the most of it.
- If the Pens can get “October Reilly Smith” back (the iteration that scored a lot) that sure would be swell. Nice start tonight.
This was a brutal stretch for the Penguins, in results and competition. Lots of road games lately, lots of games period. Some upstart rivals, then a tough Floridian swing that didn’t work out. A few days off are up next, but this team more and more needs to find something more than a few fresh bottom-of-the-lineup faces to get it in gear.