Just over a week ago, the Penguins played the Florida Panthers in Florida, just like they did tonight. The Panthers scored a goal towards the middle of the 3rd period, and a shorthanded one at that, to put them ahead 2-0. All hope seemed lost.
Then, with 5 minutes left, the Penguins began their comeback magic. They scored 2 goals, tying up the game, and then winning it in overtime on a goal by Kris Letang, his second of the game.
This game tonight played out in a similar fashion.
Florida jumped out relatively early in the first period on what I believed to be somewhat of a lucky goal. Alex Petrovic fed the puck through the slot, and I swear it went by almost every Penguins player, and at first, I was mad they weren’t playing good defense.
However, it ends up that the puck deflected off of a Penguins stick, which then caused the puck to hop over Kessel’s, but the puck still landed perfectly on Bjugstad’s stick and he made it 1-0.
Florida, in general, dominated the first period. Fleury kept them in it, but the Penguins needed to pick things up.
The second period was better for the Penguins, but they still couldn’t find the back of the net. Sid had some chances to shoot, but passed up on some opportunities. In the words of Mark Madden, who I got to watch the game with today down at Buford’s Kitchen in downtown Pittsburgh “Crosby is at his best when he’s shooting the puck. He needs to shoot there.”
Couldn’t agree more, Mark.
Anyways, the Penguins entered the 3rd down 1-0. Hagelin had a breakaway shorthanded early in the period, but he tried to go five-hole on Montoya and was denied. When the game was in the late stages of the 3rd period, all hope seemed lost. But then…
The Penguins found a spark that gave them a chance in Florida once again. This time, it came off of the stick of Chris Kunitz. Crosby tied his man up on the faceoff to Montoya’s left, and Kunitz came in and dug the puck out. He skated to the slot and absolutely rifled a shot off of the crossbar and in past Montoya to tie the game with 3:19 remaining.
The game would go to overtime, where I believe the Penguins outplayed the Panthers but were unable to score. Bryan Rust had 2 glorious chances that would not go, Letang had a great chance…but the greatest chance of all came off of the stick of Phil Kessel.
Crosby skated the puck into the zone and the entire Florida team flocked to him, only for him to find Kessel streaking down the middle of the ice. The guy has a dangerous shot, and he was as wide open as wide open can get in the 3 on 3 overtime, but Montoya denied him.
Also, honorable mention to Crosby who somehow disrupted a Florida 3 on 1 chance. It was a tremendous defensive play and at the moment, gave the Penguins a chance to get an extra point.
Then…onto the shootout.
Huberdeau was first for the Panthers. The left-hander skated from right to left and tried to fool Fleury with a wrist shot and wait Fleury out. Well, he did fool Flower, but the post gave Fleury some love.
Crosby then shot for the Penguins and scored on Montoya. Crosby loves to go high glove or 5-hole (between the goalies legs). Tonight, he went 5-hole and put the Penguins up 1-0 in the shootout.
Next shooter for the Panthers was USC guy Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck tried to open up the 5-hole of Fleury, but Fleury made sure that he closed the door. The Penguins now had a chance to win it.
Onto the ice came Chris Kunitz. He made a great move, as the left-hander skated right ro left, faked the shot, and went backhand. Unfortunately for Kunitz, Montoya made a fantastic glove save.
However, the Penguins had yet ANOTHER chance to win, and Fleury just needed to stop Bjugstad, but could not. Fleury went with the poke-check, but Bjugstad’s long reach allowed him to go to the backhand and avoid Fleury’s poke-check to keep the shootout going.
Despite Fleury not being able to make the save, the Penguins once again had to chance to win the shootout on the stick of Letang, who had just won them a shootout on Friday night. Letang tried to make a similar backhand move, but Montoya was ready for it and didn’t buy what Letang was selling.
Reilly Smith then shot for the Panthers, but he was quickly poke-checked by Fleury, as he came to a dead stop right in front of the net.
Kessel then had a chance to end it for the Penguins. He came in flying and just took a straight up wrist shot. My goodness was it a rifle, but it pinged right off of the crossbar and back out. Montoya had no chance of stopping the shot, it was just a fraction of an inch too high.
Florida then had its chance to go on top, and who else but former Penguin Jussi Jokinen. He did the same move as Huberdaeu essentially, but he did not hit a post. He found the back of the net.
Cullen then came in with a chance to tie the shootout. He deked a few times, tried to go 5-hole, but was denied by Montoya. Not the same result for the Penguins as last time they were in that building…
I know he has not been producing, but I am really high on Bryan Rust right now. The guy has some serious speed and has been creating chances for himself. I think he will benefit once some of the veterans come back, and I do not think he will leave the lineup.
Flower had a strong performance. The team has struggled to score goals in its past 3 games, but it should be noted they have gotten 0 production from their bottom 6 AHL guys and they are without Geno. Hopefully he is ready to go on Thursday against Detroit. I have heard he is progressing, so we will see what his status is come Thursday.
The Penguins shot low on Montoya a lot. I do not know if he is not as good when the puck is shot low or if that’s just where the puck was going tonight. Ironically, the only goal in the game came on a shot from Kunitz where he DID go high on Montoya. Just felt that was an observation I should share…
Well hey, you win some you lose some, but the fact that the Penguins could get a point out of this game where they were down for the majority of it is still a huge confidence booster, even though they had the potential to get 2.
Don’t be concerned about this game or even the Penguins 3 game funk with goal scoring. When 39-year-old journeyman Matt Cullen is centering your 2nd line of Hagelin and Kessel, your team is not going to score many goals. That is not, however, a knock on Cullen. He is a good hockey player, but he is a fourth line center and PK guy. He shouldn’t be centering 2 speedy snipers.
Malkin will be back soon, the bottom 6 will no longer be all AHL guys soon enough (although I do like Sheary and Rust), and the team will improve. There is no doubt about that. The fact that the Penguins got a point out of tonight…I’m happy with that.
I can confidently say this: the Penguins would have NEVER got that point under Johnston. This team has much more resolve/comeback ability under Sullivan and will only get better as the injured guys get healthy again. Looking forward to see what’s to come…
I really do want to try my best to keep up with the recap articles, so I will do my best to post one after the Thursday game against Detroit. Let’s hope they get Geno back for that one.
Until next time…Let’s Go Pens.