Penguins start fast; spank Panthers 5-1

Cats no match for the Stanley Cup champs

The Pittsburgh Penguins exploded for three goals in the first 7:34 of action and cruised to a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers in interim coach Tom Rowe’s first home game behind the bench.

Sidney Crosby lit the fuse, scoring his league-leading 18th goal (tied with David Pastrnak) at the 3:06 mark. After taking a short pass from Patric Hornqvist, Crosby cycled back from the corner to just above the right circle before putting a wrist shot through Roberto Luongo. Conor Sheary drew the second assist on the play that gave Crosby points in 17 of 21 games since he returned to the lineup on October 25.

Sid The Kid would set up the Pittsburgh’s second goal a 1:45 later.  Crosby split the Panthers defense after taking a nice pass from Justin Schultz at the blue line and fed a wide-open Sheary. Sheary’s shot missed wide, but Luongo inadvertently kicked the carom off the boards into his own net.

The Penguins completed the barrage and went up by three when Scott Wilson’s drive went in off of Tom Kuhnhackl, who was screening in front. The goal withstood Rowe’s challenge for goalie interference.

Florida notched its only goal on the power-play 6:17 into the second period. After taking Keith Yandle’s stretch pass, Aleksander Barkov got by Nick Bonino at the line and set up Jaromir Jagr for career goal number 755 with a nifty backhand dish.

Former Panther Matt Cullen ended any hope of Cats comeback when he punched in the rebound of another hard Wilson shot at 5:48 of the final frame. Schultz also picked up his second point of the night with the secondary helper.

Carl Hagelin completed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 33 seconds left on the clock. The lone assist on Hagelin’s third went to Pens goaltender Matt Murray, who finished with 28 saves. Eighteen of those stops came in a busy third period for the 22-year-old.

The Panthers fell to 1-2-3 under Rowe, who like the fired Gerard Gallant, doesn’t seem to have the answers for whatever it is that ails this roster. The struggling Cats will host Vancouver on Saturday before they head out on a three-game tour of the Central Division.

Emperors & Snares

  • The win gave the Penguins a 6-0-2 record against the Panthers in the last eight meetings between the two clubs.
  • Jaromir Jagr’s goal was his 1,882nd career point. He is now just six away from passing Mark Messier for second on NHL’s all-time scoring list.
  • After a slow start to the season that saw him go pointless in eight straight games, Aleksander Barkov (3G/10A) has posted 13 points in his last 16 outings.
  • Pittsburgh’s Evgeny Malkin saw his six-game scoring streak come to an end.
  • On a night heavy in the minus department, Vincent Trocheck, Aaron Eklbad and Jakub Kindl “led” the way, all posting a -3 rating.
  • Roberto Luongo made 25 saves and saw his record fall to 9-8-2.
  • Announced attendance for Sidney and The Crosby Kids, one of the league’s marquee teams and the defending champs, was a disappointing 14,068.
  • Steel yourself for a tough trip through PensBurgh if you want the other side of the latest Penguins - Cats tussle./