One of the most disciplined and structured teams in the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins came into Sunrise with a burr in their saddles, having dropped a 3-0 decision to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday. The Florida Panthers would have to deal with a fired up Penguins club without the services of Vincent Trocheck, who sat this one out after suffering an injury blocking a shot against the Nashville Predators in the last contest, and Aaron Ekblad, who missed the game due to illness.
The Panthers stepped up in a big way, topping the Pens 4-2 in regulation behind some solid netminding from Sergei Bobrovsky and a goal and assist each from Jonathan Huberdeau and Denis Malgin . The Panthers would lose the services of Mike Matheson after the second period due to injury, reducing the Panthers to five defensemen for the remainder of the game. Newcomer Brian Boyle, signed on Sunday, logged just over 14 minutes of ice time in the winning effort.
The Panthers played as close to a 60 minute game as we’ve seen so far this season, and head coach Joel Quenneville has to be encouraged by the effort against the Penguins. The Cats will take the two points as they prepare to depart on a long western Canadian road trip, starting Thursday against the Calgary Flames. Let’s hope by the time they depart that Trocheck, Ekblad and Matheson are back in the lineup, because the Panthers are going to need their services against some tough foes on that road trip.
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- Malgin again looked speedy, assertive and creative with the puck. One thing he’s doing more this season that he hasn’t in past seasons is drive the play himself. He’d usually rely on his teammates, pulling up after crossing the offensive blue line and looking for the pass, but lately he’s been driving the net and taking the shot himself. He’s also quite tenacious on the backcheck, something that will continue to get him more minutes as the coaching staff develops more trust with him. He created a lot in this game and the Panthers welcome the secondary scoring.
- Florida has a pretty concerning trend of scoring a big goal, and then letting up a goal shortly afterwards. Gotta kill that tendency as soon as possible. The Cats seem to lack a level-headed killer instinct to play hard to the final horn when they have a lead. Hopefully Quenneville and staff can change that soon because my blood pressure medication won’t be enough anymore.
- Boyle looked a bit tired at times, but he went to the right areas on the ice when he needed to. As he gets more time in a Florida sweater, he’ll start to get more comfortable and conditioned, and should be a solid depth player to the bottom six for the Panthers. Good to see him out there.
- The Cats did a pretty good job keeping the Penguins to the outside shooting lanes and blocking shots when they couldn’t. Other than a couple breakdowns throughout the game, they managed to keep the opposition’s high danger chances down to a reasonable level, way better than in the first couple of games and much better than last season.
- Anton Stralman doesn’t get his name mentioned much here, and for good reason: he’s rarely out of position, almost always dependable with the puck and without it, and supports his defensive partner superbly. The Panthers might be overpaying for his services but so far he’s been a solid presence on the blue line and a good compliment for a reinvigorated Matheson.
- Great game by Bobrovsky, who has struggled a bit so far this season. He made the big saves the Panthers needed throughout the game and his team did a pretty good job making sure the crease was cleared out. As the defense improves, so will his numbers.