Crosby goal helps Penguins rally for 3-2 win over Panthers

Cats troubles in the Steel City continue

The Florida Panthers caught a bad break in the schedule with superstar Sidney Crosby making his season debut for the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Crosby scored a power-play goal with 6:19 remaining in the second period to halve a two-goal deficit, swinging momentum away from the Panthers, who were playing a near flawless road game up to that point.

After a somewhat conservative start to the first period by both teams, and a couple of squandered power play chances for the Cats, Florida cashed in on its third man-advantage opportunity of the opening stanza.

Reilly Smith got his first of the season by knocking the rebound of Michael Matheson’s tidy deflection off Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads into the back of the net. Colton Sceviour took the initial shot from the point to pick up the secondary assist at the 18:02 mark.

The Panthers added to the lead 6:09 into the second period when Mark Pysyk tipped a hard crossing pass from Shane Harper by Fleury for his first goal in a Florida kit. Red-hot Jonathan Marchessault drew the second helper for his team-leading eighth point.

Florida carried the play until their second penalty of the period, a high-sticking minor on Greg McKegg, set the table for Concussed Sidney & the Crosby kids. Phil Kessel won a battle on the boards and got the puck to Evegni Malkin who found Crosby wide open in the slot. Crosby promptly ripped a wrist shot past James Reimer for his first goal of the campaign.

The Cats managed to hang on to the lead for the rest of the period, but lost it 5:36 into the third when Carl Hagelin decided to shoot on a 2-on-1 break with Bryan Rust and beat Reimer far side. Nick Bonino got the only assist for chipping the puck out of his own end to start the rush up ice.

Pittsburgh’s checking line, on the ice against’s Florida’s top unit, came up with the eventual game-winner 4:06 later. Tom Kuhnhackl collected the puck after Matt Cullen’s defensive zone face-off win and sped all the way up the ice before delivering a nice pass across to Eric Fehr, who slid it into the yawning cage. Kuhnhackl was able to draw both Jason Demers and Mike Matheson to him, leaving Fehr all alone in front of Reimer.

Matheson should have moved over to cover his side sooner and Aleksander Barkov, seeing two men on one side, should have come down low to help out, but Matheson was the one most at fault. That said, Barkov (no SOG, -2) had a disappointing game last night.

Fleury stopped all 10 of the Cats’ shots in the final frame, including a nice glove save on Smith, to help the Pens raise their record to 4-2-1. The veteran keeper, who has started every game this season, finished with 20 saves.

The Panthers fell to 3-2-1 and remain winless on the road heading into Thursday night’s game in Toronto.

Emperors & Snares

  • The win extended Pittsburgh’s unbeaten streak against Florida to seven games.
  • James Reimer, who turned away 19 shots, fell to 0-1-1 on the young season. Reimer’s next chance to post his first win for Florida should come this weekend in the upcoming back-to-back in Buffalo and Detroit.
  • Florida’s third line of Denis Malgin, Jared McCann and Colton Sceviour combined for exactly zero shots on goal.
  • Like his center Aleksander Barkov, Jaromir Jagr finished the game with a -2 rating, but the grizzled vet did register three shots on goal. Jagr skated in his 1,635th career game, tying him with Scott Stevens for seventh all-time.
  • In addition to goal that jump-started Pittsburgh’s comeback, Sidney Crosby led his club with four shots on goal and logged 18:02 TOI in his first appearance of 2016-17.
  • Keith Yandle had an effective game for the Cats , finishing with a team-best five shots to go along with three blocks.
  • Jussi Jokinen missed his second straight game with a knee injury. Replacement Kyle Rau only managed one hit in 15:10 of ice time. Springfield beckons...
  • March on over to PensBurgh to get the Steel City-flavored take on last night’s affair./