The Penguins were back to work last night in southish Florida to take on the upstart Florida Panthers. The Panthers came into the game one point out of a playoff spot. The Penguins came into the game one injury away from getting their next meal free at Shoney’s. With Marino out with a broken jaw requiring surgery, or now requiring further evaluation in Pittsburgh but not surgery, but maybe requiring surgery, the Penguins lined up as follows.
On the plus side, all defenders are back to playing on their strong side. On the negative side, this graphic is the only time I remember Galchenyuk is a thing.
Sticks down, puck down and we were underway. Kind of a catchy phrase Mears has there. Anywho, the game started off with a moderate pace until Kris Letang was called for making Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck, who is from Pittsburgh, fall over 4:22 in. The Penguins would kill the penalty, and right as time expired the puck would bounce to center ice where Kris Letang was exiting the box. Letang picked up the puck and made Bobrovsky wish he was still playing Parcheesi at the retirement center
KRIS LETANG (12) Unassisted @ 6:30
Letang with his 12th goal of the year as he inches closer to his career-high of 16 he hit last year (and once before in 2015-16).
The Penguins took the lead and the game went back into a Florida lull. The two teams exchanged chances for the next four minutes before the tenacious third line got to work. This time it was Letang to Johnson on the blue line, Johnson whipped one to the net and Teddy Blueger was there to save the world.
TEDDY BLUEGER (8) Assisted by Johnson (8) & Letang (24) @ 10:44
Generally, it isn’t a good defensive plan to allow an offensive player hang out behind the entire team while the puck is still in the offensive zone.
The goal was enough to send the Penguins into a bit of a Florida coma as the Panthers picked up the pace. During this period the Panthers evened up the 5v5 scoring chances for but Tristan Jarry was getting busy keeping the Penguins in the game. With 4 minutes left the Panthers were too much for the Pens to handle, and Matt Hoffman used his nasty release to make it a 1-goal game.
A minute after the goal Marcus Pettersson was called for hooking and the Panthers would get a powerplay for the rest of the first period. Despite their best efforts, the Pens were able to kill it and escape to the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
Mike Sullivan made a subtle change partway through the first period when he switched Jared McCann and Patrik Hornqvist. Two minutes into the second period, McCann drew a penalty sending the Pens to the powerplay. The Penguins powerplay has been in a bigger dry spell than your uncle George, but even ole’ Georgie gets lucky every now in then. After getting set up in the zone, Malkin found McCann who looked up to see Crosby streaking to the goal. The beautiful thing about seeing Crosby going to the goal is that you only need to get the puck somewhere around him and he will do the rest.
SIDNEY CROSBY (10) Assisted by McCann (17) & Malkin (40) @ 3:50 PPG
Look at Crosby directing the play from just outside the frame of this gif with his stick. It never gets old folks. Unfortunately, the Penguins have had a nasty habit recently of allowing a goal within 90 seconds of scoring a goal. This trend would continue when Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck would find Brett Connelly for a slam dunk during an odd-man break.
It doesn’t matter who is in goal, odd-man breaks aren’t a good approach to defense. The Panthers used the next 15 minutes to drive play against the Pens but Jarry was there to keep the team up one. The Penguins were forced to kill off a Riikola penalty at the 16-minute mark. By the time the horn sounded the Panthers had racked up 18 scoring chances for to just 8 against, but the Pens held the 1 goal lead.
After watching the Panthers step on the gas in the second period this game had a feeling of regulation loss heading into the third. Fortunately, the Penguins regrouped in the locker room and came out ready to play in the third. Instead of falling into a defensive shell the Pens pushed back with their own offense. The Panthers emptied the tank as they desperately tried to tie the game but Jarry was huge when he needed to be. By the time the frame ended, the Panthers had 18 scoring chances for while the Penguins answered with 11 of their own. This was a big factor in the Pen’s ability to hang on. If you recall the Washington game, the Penguins could barely get a scoring chance for in the third period and it resulted in a dominant period for the Caps. Last night, the Penguins showed that they learned some lessons from that game and pushed back. Time would tick down, Jack Johnson would take a slashing penalty with 1 second left but it wasn’t called and the Pens would win.
- Too many odd-man breaks
- Justin Schultz has had two serious leg injuries in two years and it is really showing. The dude has lost a lot of speed and mobility
- The Penguins having two starting goalies may be what saves them while they figure out their defense