SUNRISE, Fla – The Pittsburgh Penguins were in a downward spiral as they headed into Friday night’s tilt with the Florida Panthers in the midst of a six game losing streak. Their fate seemed to turn around, as they beat the Florida Panthers 4-1 on the Panthers’ home ice.
Ed Jovanovski called it a debacle.
“That was one of our most incomplete efforts of the year,” coach Kevin Dineen added.
The “debacle” started in the first period, where the Panthers allowed two breakaways. Matt Cooke had a shorthanded chance, while James Neal was offered another opportunity. Cooke was stopped. Neal hit the crossbar, missing by mere inches. When the dust settled, the Panthers found themselves outshot 18-6 in the opening frame (not including four Penguins shots hitting the post), but the scoreboard read 0-0.
In what seemed more like a wrestling match, the Panthers saw some life 4:39 into the opening period, when the Krys Barch took on the Penguins’ Aaron Ashem. It was more like a wrestling match, with Barch left standing at the end, as Ashem went in with all his might to get the last punch in.
When all was said and done, Scott Clemmensen made 20 saves before the Penguins opened the scoring. Just 1:49 into the second session, the puck was cleared into the area behind Clemmensen’s net. He had trouble playing the puck, and actually touched it outside the restricted zone, but was not called for the delay of game. Matt Cooke intercepted the puck and found Steve Sullivan skating in. Sullivan’s easy slapshot, his eighth goal of the season, made it 1-0 Pittsburgh and sent the tone for the remaining 38 minutes of play.
“In the first period we got outplayed, and our goaltender made the saves,” Dineen said. “My feeling is when you get outplayed that badly in the first period, there’s going to be some kind of response and we did not have a good response tonight.”
Pittsburgh, and superstar Evgeni Malkin, book-ended the period with a second goal. Malkin intercepted the puck in his own zone and skated down the left side. He wound up a hard slapshot that was saved by Clemmensen, and the save went to the left corner, where Malkin again took possession and knocked a wrister off the Florida goalie’s pads, ricocheting into the back of the net. It was hist 18th goal of the season, and it was all the Penguins ended up needing.
Before you could even say intermission, the Pens were back to scoring, as 36 seconds into the third period, Pascal Dupuis came skating down the right side, with Tyler Kennedy chasing. He passed the puck to Brooks Orpik who tic-tac-toed it back over to Kennedy, who snapped it past Clemmensen.
Round two of the heavyweight fights took place at the 4:47 mark of the period. Eric Tangradi and Erik Gudbranson dropped the gloves, and as Tangradi went to punch Gudbranson, he gell to the ice. The Panthers got the edge in the fight, as they began the comeback just two minutes later. Jason Garrison ripped a hard shot from the left point. Michal Repik was attempting to get out of the way, but instead the puck went in off his legs, putting the Panthers on the board.
The Pens got the goal back, though, as Neal came down the left side and let go an easy snap shot to make the score 4-1, and that’s how it ended.
The Panthers will have the weekend to put the loss behind them, as they return to the ice on Monday when the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins come to town. They find themselves with a 2 point lead in the division, as the Washington Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.
- Sidney Crosby skated for Pittsburgh in the morning skate. (posted here)
- The teams played in front of 18,658 in Sunrise, including NHL commissioner Gary Bettmen, who was booed by the fans when announced.
- Florida will skate tomorrow at 11:30 at the Kendall Ice Arena, in Kendall. It will be their first time on ice in Miami-Dade County since the team left the Miami Arena in 1998.
- In a minor trade, Florida traded forward Angelo Esposito to Dallas for forward Ondrej Roman. Esposito will report to Texas (Austin, AHL) while Roman will make the short trip from Austin to San Antonio (AHL).
1. Evgeni Malkin (PIT) GWG
2. James Neal (PIT) G, A
3. Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) W, 25 Sv