Cats Quickies: Penguins rock Panthers 5-2, but with a caveat
Missed out on a chunk of the third period of Wednesday's 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh, but observationally speaking, the Panthers looked every bit the character reasonable fans should expect: they were prepared, brought good speed, and displayed no emotional or physical hangover from Monday's drubbing of the Flyers.
Though the score (and especially the scoresheet) demands a different take, the reality was Florida was generally involved and engaged from start to finish. If a complaint could be lodged, it was the Cats' inability to force a more physical style upon the Pens, but the reason for this is simple: Pittsburgh is playing in another universe at present. They contain so much more of everything required to win a game. All the necessary elements are there: timely hits, shocking speed and agility, goaltending more than adequate for the defensive strategy. Constructed for the postseason, period.
That Stephen Weiss and Bryan McCabe were able to crack the code at all is a testament to the hard work in evidence all night. The shots were there, as some slick offensive trickery was employed by the visitors in an attempt to stifle the Penguins' all-flags-flying push to the Florida crease.
As many noted in the game chat last night, this was a case of two clubs employing what's likely their best efforts; in the end, it was a downer fan-wise but not the depression-inducing end-of-days loss witnessed in recent years. Can't beat 'em up for running squarely into the developing juggernaut that is the Pens.
If anything, this game may be a more dangerous harbinger of things to come for Philadelphia...
Notes: Mark Letestu, Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke, Ben Lovejoy, and Pascal Dupuis (EN) scored for PIT. Chris Kunitz had 2 assists. Tomas Vokoun (6 saves on 9 shots) took the loss after getting yanked following the first three PIT goals; reliever Scott Clemmensen received improved defensive support while stopping 14 of 15 down the stretch. Backup Brent Johnson sealed the win with 16 saves, only to be replaced with Marc-Andre Fleury in the third frame, stopping 11 of 12. Crosby led all skaters with 8 SOG; Chris Higgins (no points, -1) paced the Panthers with 5. Here's the scoresheet wigout for Florida's coaches: Marty Reasoner, Shawn Matthias, and Evgeny Dadonov - certified sparkplugs all night - each finished at -3; Dennis Wideman "led" with a -4. Matthias received a fighting major after tangling with Lovejoy; it was a mightily impressive - and unexpected - display by Matty. Evgeni Malkin collected an assist, +1, and 1 shot. SOG: 37-34, FLA. More from Justin at Pensburgh here.
Next up: Cats @ Sabres this evening. Live Game Chat at 6.