Good evening Panthers fans. The Cats lost 3-1 tonight, but they looked fierce doing it. Gudbranson rocked Downie, and got 80 shots in Fleury's general direction. Read on for stream of consciousness recap:
The Penguins got on the board before two minutes were up courtesy of a Nick Spaling slapshot from just inside the blueline which knuckled its way over Roberto Luongo's stick side for an early 1-0 lead. Steve Downie and one-time Panther Marcel Goc earned the assists on the play.
Young Panthers center Vincent Trocheck looks like he may have something to prove tonight, with his friends and family strong in attendance for the matchup. It's no wonder they subbed him in for Brandon Pirri.
For nearly a full minute around the six-minute mark, the Penguins were buzzing with a purpose around Luongo, sliding the puck back and forth with almost no resistance from Florida's defense. The strong puck possession showing allowed the Pens to take a 2-0 lead at the 6:57 mark when Derrick Pouliot wired one at Luongo from 12 feet away, beating the netminder over his glove side. Downie earned his second assist, and Spaling added a helper to his earlier goal.
20 seconds later, Aleksander Barkov drew a power play when Scott Harrington high sticked him in the Pittsburgh zone. It didn't take long for Florida's much-maligned power play unit to make the Pens pay, when Trocheck got the Panthers on the board by redirecting a Brian Campbell shot under Fleury's paddle. Aaron Ekblad earned an assist on the play, his team leading 14th of the season.
There was a slight disturbance around Bobby Lou at the 8:24 mark in answer to an alleged Scottie Upshall trip of Evgeni Malkin. It resulted in offsetting penalties as both players spent two minutes in the box. The four-on-four action was harrowing for both goaltenders, who each saw errant shots from their opponents bounce off the outside of their respective cages. After his release from the box, Upshall carried the puck into Pittsburgh's zone, dishing it nicely across the ice to a charging Sean Bergenheim. Unfortunately, Bergy didn't field the pass cleanly and could not get a shot on Fleury.
Huberdeau gathered a loose puck deep in Pittsburgh's zone with 11 minutes gone in the frame and spun around to put a clean shot on Fleury. It was easily saved, but I was struck again by Huby's bad puck luck thus far this season.
Bobby Farnham head butted Ekblad on the chin, drawing some blood with 7:45 remaining in the period, but somehow the Pens had the power play (Brian Campbell, two minutes for interference). Malkin and Spaling each drilled the puck off the same post within a three-second period, and play was halted for several minutes while the officials discussed - I don't know what they were discussing, but after they finished talking, they came out and said "No goal." I didn't know there was any question, but I guess the NHL doesn't pay me to make these calls, so I'll just write about it.
The rest of the man advantage was spent with the Panthers ably clearing the puck out of the zone, and even saw Tomas Kopecky carry it into Pittsburgh's zone at one point. After it expired, Brad Boyes, Barkov and Bjugstad each got a shot on Fleury within a minute of each other (along with Bolland and Bergy, and honorary member Brian Campbell, we got our own little "Killer B's" here).
Blake Comeau was called for interference at the 16:09 mark to give the Cats another power play opportunity, their second of the game. The Panthers kept the puck in the zone for 1:05 before the Pens could clear it for the first time. Bjugstad found Trocheck for a golden opportunity at Fleury's doorstep, but the beleaguered netminder made his 19th save of the period to preserve the one goal lead. Bolland and Chris Kunitz got into a scrum behind Bobby Lou soon after that. There was a lot of "Smell my glove!" going on there. It was precipitated by most of both teams sliding into Luongo with a minute left in the period.
After the smoke cleared, Willie Mitchell, Dave Bolland, Dylan Olsen, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Hornquist, and Kris Letang were called for roughing. The ensuing play would see Crosby eat the ice as the Pens crashed the net, then Comeau tripped over him. Somehow, Erik Gudbranson was sent to the box for four minutes. It was complete hogwash, as there was no blood, and no injury. Less than 10 seconds back into the action, Jussi Jokinen, Malkin, and another Penguin were sent to the box with coincidental minors.
First Period Notes
- There was a total of 38 minutes of penalties called in the scrappiest first period I've seen recently. Each team was called for 19, splitting it right down the middle. These guys really don't seem to like each other, and remember - if the season were to end today, these two would be first round opponents. Maybe the Panthers are trying to make the Pens think twice before they label them "easy meat."
- The Panthers look like they're out for blood tonight, and have put 21 shots on Fleury (along with 32 Fenwick events overall). Pittsburgh has put the puck on Luongo 15 times. Trocheck has four shots on goal, Bergenheim, Malkin and Jokinen each had three.
- Faceoffs were tied with 14 wins for each team. Derek MacKenzie won only one-of-nine, while the rest of the Panthers were an impressive 13-for-19.
- Florida had 14 hits to 11 for the Penguins. Simon Despres led all skater with four, Gudbranson and Trocheck had three apiece for the Panthers.
The second period started with 10 players in the penalty box, five for each team. The action was four-on-four for the first minute and a half, followed by almost two minutes with the Penguins skating five-on-four. The Panthers penalty kill allowed the Penguins to set up nicely, and they couldn't clear the puck out for over a minute before MacKenzie pushed it out of the zone. Luongo got his mask knocked off by Hornquist, then Bobby got in the forwards' face.
Hornquist headed to the box, and it resulted in an eight-second four-on-four followed by a 1:52 Panthers power play. The Cats man advantage wasn't nearly as deadly looking as was the Penguins moments before, and it expired with the score still 2-1.
Crosby had a breakaway chance against Luongo at the 5:30 mark, but Bobby Lou was up to the task. Gudbranson and Downie squared off at center ice a moment later, and Gudbranson was the clear winner. The home crowd let out a cheer when Downie fell down on top of Guds, as if Steve were the winner - lol. Both players got five minutes for fighting.
Barkov and Bergenheim had a pretty good give-and-go which eventually wound up with the puck skittering across the lip of the goal mouth at the eight-minute mark. Florida got their 30th shot on net before the 10-minute mark of the game. Trocheck was called for tripping Malkin a moment later, although it looked like incidental contact.
The Penguins didn't quite get their rotation down before the Panthers cleared the puck out of the zone. With 1:11 left to the man advantage, Bolland was called for tripping Malkin, but Malkin also headed to the box for embellishment. The home crowd didn't like it, but y'know - how does it feel Pittsburgh?
The power play killed off, Bolland was soon after called for cross-checking Bobby Farnham. The Pens got two shots on Luongo in the first 30 seconds before he froze the puck. The rest of the power play was spent mostly in Florida's zone as Luongo stood tall, making three saves as countless others were deflected out of harms way.
Huberdeau got a good run at the loose puck, moving rapidly toward Fleury for Florida's first SOG in nearly eight minutes at the 17-minute mark. After the save, he collected the rebound and got another one off before Pittsburgh massed their forces for a three-on-two rush the following way.
With less than a minute left, Barkov was hammered into the boards by Simon Despres, resulting in Florida's fourth power play of the night. The Cats got the puck on goal three times before the horn sounded, but still ended up in the dressing room down two goals to one.
Second Period Notes
- The truculence continued through most of the second period, which ended with a penalty count of Pittsburgh 40, Florida 30, although the Penguins had more power plays.
- The Panthers were winning the shots-on-goal battle 34-to-27, and led the Pens 13-to-12 for the second. Bergenheim and Crosby led their teams with five shots apiece.
- Pittsburgh was edging Florida in the faceoff circle, 28-to-26 after two. Nick Bjugstad was the big winner, with 10 wins in 15 tries.
- The Penguins were outhitting the Cats 22-18 at the second break. Despres had eight all by himself.
- Huberdeau is going to light the lamp soon. I don't know when, exactly, but soon, and often afterward with any luck.
Bolland got a nifty chance soon into the third, but Fleury isn't caving very easily. Scottie Upshall wired one into his chest. Bjugstad found himself all alone a moment later, but lined the drive high and to the right. The Cats followed it up with a lot of legitimate chances, but Fleury was all over the place, sprawling, kicking.....just denying Florida a chance to even the score.
Gudbranson bounced it off the post from the blueline, and were thoroughly outhustling the Penguins until the seven minute mark. That's when Sidney Crosby redirected a pass from Kris Letang for a 3-1 lead. Despres got the other assist on the play.
The Panthers were still playing with a lot of purpose, but I couldn't help feeling at this point that they were just spinning their wheels in the air. The goal coming into this two-game series had to be collecting at least two points - and now they can get at most two points. Still, they were the better team for most of the game.
Rob Scuderi flipped the puck over the glass with five minutes left in regulation for a delay of game penalty. The Panthers pulled Luongo with four minutes left for a six-on-four advantage, but couldn't get it going. After the penalty expired, the Cats were awarded another power play. They were all over the zone with the two-man advantage, but the most exciting moment was when Crosby sent the puck the length of the ice and just barely missing the empty cage.
Fleischmann was called for a penalty with two minutes left for four-on-four action. The Penguins went on the power play with a minute left. The game ended with the Cats down, 3-1.
Third Period Notes
- The Panthers just lost to the best team in the NHL (record-wise). They did it and looked like they were controlling the flow for the most part. The goal in this series going in was to escape with two points, which is a real possibility after seeing how they played tonight.
- The Panthers outshot the Penguins 80-to-54 overall, and 46-to-34 for shots-on-goal. Crosby led everyone with seven, and Trocheck led the Panthers with six.
- The Pens took 41-of-79 at the dot. Bolland (11-for-16) and Bjugstad (14-for-23) led the Cats.
- Pittsburgh out-gritted the Panthers with 31 hits and 19 blocked shots, to 24 and 10 for Florida, respectively. Despres (10 hits), Comeau (four hits) and Farnham (five hits) each also blocked one shot. Nobody on the Panthers had more than three hits. As for blocked shots, does anyone else miss Mike Weaver?
- Pittsburgh spent a total of 44 minutes in the penalty box, to 32 for the Panthers. It was Florida's season high, and I can't help but think that this is just the beginning. Tune in for more truculence on Monday night.