Sidney Crosby scored a power-play goal and drew two assists as the Penguins top line provided all three Pittsburgh goals, while Florida’s number one troika was blanked.
The Panthers took an early lead by cashing in on the game’s first penalty. After taking a cross-ice pass from Mike Hoffman, rookie Henrik Borgstrom threw a hard centering feed in front intended for Vincent Trocheck and the puck found the back of the net after deflecting off former Panther Erik Gudbranson’s blade 1:45 into the action. Aaron Ekblad collected the secondary assist by alertly stepping up to hold the puck in zone with a quick swipe to Hoffman.
Roberto Luongo was sharp in the first, stopping all ten shots he faced and the Penguins had a goal waved off when Patric Hornqvist batted a puck out of the air with a high stick.
The Penguins would tie the game just 16 seconds into the middle frame when a fumble by Mike Matheson set the table for the home side. Matheson’s unfortunate bobble came right to Crosby, who centered to Jared McCann. McCann was immediately poke-checked by Ekblad, but the puck ended up on the stick of the onrushing Guentzal, who easily beat Luongo glove-side from the high slot.
All blame on the goal goes to Matheson, who turned the puck over while under little to no pressure from Crosby, who picked up his 1,200th career point with the assist. Good job by Ekblad for quickly countering McCann. Unfortunately, Guentzel was there to convert on the broken play.
Pittsburgh would take the lead midway thorough the period, thanks to a questionable interference call on Jamie McGinn and some additional help from the Cats.
While shorthanded, Aleksander Barkov entered the Penguins zone 2-on-2 with Troy Brouwer and instead of maintaining possession or dumping the puck behind net, he lost the handle in the lower right circle, allowing Gudbranson to send his teammates the other way. Hornqvist carried up ice before passing off to Crosby, who crossed to an open Phil Kessel. Luongo stopped Kessel’s rising shot,but the rebound found “The Kid” and he smacked it into the empty net for his 30th goal.
Trocheck would notch just his third goal since returning to the lineup in mid-January to knot the score with 2:29 left in the period. Florida’s second line pivot worked a give-and-go with Hoffman and slammed the puck past Matt Murray from a sharp angle for his seventh of the season to cap off a nice rush up ice started by MacKenize Weegar. Frank Vatrano, who was robbed by Murray earlier in the period, drew the secondary assist with his touch pass that sent Trocheck screaming through the neutral zone.
The third period belonged to the goalies with Luongo coming up with 13 saves, including key stops on Guentzel and Kessel from in close, and Murray turning away all nine Florida shots.
Poor puck management would cost the Panthers a third time in the extra session. With the Cats holding possession in the Penguins end, Borgstrom jammed Matheson with a pass in the skates that Guentzel was able to knock loose to Crosby. Crosby then lifted an aerial pass to Guenztel, who skated through Matheson before breaking in on Luongo and sliding a backhander home to end the game.
The Panthers entered the game ten points out of a playoff spot and departed with another added to the deficit after allowing the Penguins to claim the bonus point coupled with Montreal’s 3-1 win in Los Angeles. I thought the Cats played pretty well in this one, when they weren’t helping Pittsburgh score, wasting a quality start from Luongo, who finished with 34 saves. Once again, Florida couldn’t get it done in the third period or overtime with the game on the line and dropped their fifth in a row, with four of those losses coming post-regulation. The Panthers head to Boston to take on the red-hot Bruins on Thursday with time, and games running out.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)