Sidney Crosby scored two goals and Matt Murray made 43 saves to send the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 defeat at PPG Paints Arena, snapping the Cats modest two-game winning streak.
Crosby, left alone at the back post, came up with only goal of the first period when he one-timed Phil Kessel’s shot past James Reimer at the 6:46 mark. Kris Letang drew the secondary assist on the power-play marker that came with rookie Ian McCoshen in the penalty box due to an iffy slashing call.
After keeping up near constant pressure on the Penguins’ net, the Panthers finally dented Murray 5:25 into the second period. Jonathan Huberdeau got the goal after taking a return pass from wing man Evgenii Dadonov and sliding it home.
A ghastly turnover at his own blue line by Aleksander Barkov led to Greg McKegg’s shorthanded goal 35 seconds later. Tom Kuhnhackl collected Barkov’s ugly gaffe and moved in on goal, but he was neatly checked by Keith Yandle. Unfortunately, the puck found McKegg and the former Panther beat Reimer with nice backhand for his first as Penguin.
The Panthers remained on the power play after Carl Hagelin was called for slashing and evened things up again when Huberdeau potted his second of the night at 8:30. After Murray stopped Yandle’s drive from the point, Dadonov was able to push the puck to Huberdeau, who smacked it into the yawing net.
Pittsburgh regained the lead for good when pesky Patric Hornqvist stuffed the puck by Reimer after the goaltender made a pad save on Olli Maatta, but couldn’t control the rebound long enough to get a whistle. Bryan Rust registered the second assist on the goal, which came with 6:24 left in the middle frame.
Crosby doubled the Penguins advantage 1:59 into the third when he deflected Letang’s pass out of the air, off of Reimer’s blocker and into the back of the net. Conor Sheary got the second assist with nice deflection of his own to keep the Cats from exiting the zone.
The resilient Panthers pulled one back at the 6:18 when Vincent Trocheck found an open Aaron Ekblad and his blast from the top of the right circle hit the top corner of the net. Jamie McGinn was awarded the second assist on the goal for his first point as a Panther.
Murray shut the door the rest of the way to send the Panthers back to .500. The 23-year-old came up with back-to-back saves on Dadonov and Connor Brickley to prevent Florida from forging a tie score.
Much like the season-opener against Tampa Bay, the Panthers could have just as easily won this game. They outplayed the defending champs for the most part, but were done in by lackluster goaltending, and dumb mistakes and penalties at inopportune times. At what point do the Cats realize that leaving Sidney Crosby alone at the side of the net just isn’t a good idea? The now 2-2 Panthers will get a couple of days to lick their wounds before facing the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Emperors & Snares
- The Penguins are now 8-0-2 record in their last ten against the Panthers.
- James Reimer finished with game with 29 saves and dropped to 1-1 on the young season. Reimer needs to come up with stops on the last two Penguins’ goals.
- Aleksander Barkov had quiet night with just two shots on goal and one hit to go along with his -2 rating. The only time Barkov stood out was when he gagged up the puck leading to Greg McKegg’s shorty.
- In addition to his two assists, Kris Letang matched Jonathan Huberdeau, Jared McCann, Keith Yandle, Vincent Trocheck and Aaron Ekblad with five shots on goal.
- Ekblad’s third period goal was 100th NHL point. The milestone came in the young defenseman’s 231st career game.
- Olli Maatta’s assist on Patric Hornqvist’s go-ahead goal gave him a career-best four-game point streak.
- Steel yourself for a tough trip through PensBurgh if you want the other side of the first of three tussles this season. The two clubs will meet again on Friday in Sunrise.