Panthers battle back before falling 3-2 in overtime to Penguins
Pittsburgh's stars come through as Cats start road trip off on wrong foot.
The Florida Panthers came back from a 2-0 deficit with a pair of third period goals late to salvage a point before Evgeni Malkin delivered the game-winner 1:21 into overtime to power the Penguins to a 3-2 win in Pittsburgh.
After going 0 for 17 on the power play to start the season, the Penguins scored twice with the man-advantage against the Cats.
Sidney Crosby notched the first of those power-play markers, beating Roberto Luongo with a wrist shot from the right circle exactly eleven minutes into the first period with Malkin and Kris Letang collecting the assists.
The goal was Sid the Kid's first of the season and came with Nick Bjugstad in the penalty box for holding Pens defenseman Olli Maatta.
Luongo came up huge in the opening frame, making 15 saves to keep the sleepwalking Panthers, who only manged 5 shots on goal, in the game.
The Cats turned things around in the middle stanza to out-shoot Pittsburgh 16-12, but could not solve goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury made a nice stop on Vincent Trocheck's redirection bid late in the frame to keep the Penguins on top after forty minutes
Florida appeared to tie the game early in the third period when Reilly Smith deflected a Brian Campbell shot into the Penguins' net. The goal did not stand up when reviewed, as it was ruled Smith's stick was above the cross bar.
Pittsburgh went ahead by two a couple minutes later. After the Panthers fended off a 3-on-2 rush, the puck stayed in the zone. Crosby was able to find an open Rob Scuderi high in the slot. Scuderi threw a rising shot off Luongo's body and an opportunistic Phil Kessel was there to put the rebound home for his second in a Penguins uniform.
The Panthers finally broke through with 8:56 remaining in the tilt. Erik Gudbranson made a nice hold at the blue line and Connor Brickley was able to whack the puck while it was still in the air down low to Quinton Howden. Howden spun around to get on his forehand and put the puck past Fleury.
Florida's fourth line clicked again just 2:53 later. This time center Derek MacKenzie got the goal after Brickley chopped the puck back out in front to him from behind the cage after Howden ripped a shot wide.
Florida went to the extra session for the first time in 2015-16 and it didn't turn out so well. Not only did Florida's first taste come against the top heavy Penguins, Jonathan Huberdeau helped out the home team by taking a cross-checking penalty with 25 seconds left in regulation to give the Pens a 4-on-3 advantage.
After Crosby found Letang open in the middle, the point man coolly dished the vulcanized rubber off to Malkin, who blasted it by Luongo from the right circle (again) to give Pittsburgh the bonus point.
You could probably say the Panthers were lucky to come away with a point in this one, especially after a flat out ugly first period performance, but the Cats do deserve some props for bouncing back and going toe-to-toe with the Penguins over the final forty minutes. The difference in this one came down to Pittsburgh big guns delivering and Florida failing to get a goal from any of its top three lines. Two more stern tests await in Chicago and Dallas on this road trip. A better start and that elusive sixty minute effort will be needed to win in either one of those cities.
Odds & Ends
- Sidney Crosby's goal was also his first point of the young season, breaking a five-game drought. The Panthers had a tough time controlling the Penguins superstar, who posted three points and had a game-high nine shots on goal.
- The Panthers top line of Barkov, Jagr and Huberdeau combined for seven shots on goal, but failed to dent the twine. The Pens' stars shone brightly, the Cats were dim on this night.
- Pittsburgh raised its record to 3-3 on the season with Evgeni Malkin scoring a goal in all three wins.
- Quinton Howden earned third star honors for his performance. In addition to picking up his first goal and assist of the campaign, Howden dished out four hits.
- Before MacKenzie scored to tie the game, the Penguins thought they had went back up by two, but the zebras waved the goal off.
- Roberto Luongo had another strong start, finishing the game with 32 stops , but saw his record drop to 2-2-1. Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for his second win of the year.
- Defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Jussi Jokinen paced the Panthers with five shots on goal apiece. Jokinen finished with four hits to tie Howden for the team lead.
- Take a stroll through the steely streets of PensBurgh for more on this one.
Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)