Special teams anything but as Panthers fall 4-2 to Penguins

Cats surrender two power-play goals and shorty

Jake Guentzel scored twice and Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin also lit the lamp as the Pittsburgh Penguins doubled-up the checkered Florida Panthers by a 4-2 count at FLA Live Arena.

The Panthers opened the scoring 5:30 into the first period, thanks to an effective shift from its third line. After Eric Staal got his own rebound back, he dished off to Nick Cousins, who fed Brandon Montour after his shot attempt was blocked. Montour found Staal in the right circle and he was denied again by Tristan Jarry, who couldn’t stop Ryan Lomberg’s follow-up from in close.

Pittsburgh evened the score 4:17 into the second while a man down. Ryan Poehling got to the puck along the left boards and hacked it of the zone, springing Bryan Rust and Letang. Rust would send a backhand pass across the lower slot to the defenseman, who fired it home with Sam Reinhart unable to catch up. Oops... That’s the fourth shorthanded goal the Cats have allowed this season.

A tripping penalty on Carter Verhaeghe put the visitors on the power play and the man who drew the call got the goal 50 second later. Guentzel used his skate to steer a low shot from Malkin, that got through Aleksander Barkov, past Bobrovsky at the 12:42 mark. The second assist on the goal went to Letang.

The march of the Penguins continued at 8:05 of the third when they converted another man-advantage situation, this time with Aaron Ekblad in the penalty box for putting the puck directly out of play. After exchanging passes with Rickard Rakell, Sidney Crosby drifted above the left circle and unleashed a slap shot that was going to miss the net, but instead nailed Malkin in the right knee and dropped in after hitting the post first.

Reinhart would halve the deficit 2:09 later, one-timing a circle-to-circle crossing pass from Verhaeghe after Carter spun away from Brian Dumoulin in the neutral zone. Nice goal!

The Penguins clinched it when Crosby guided a pass from Brock McGinn out of his own zone to Guentzel, who found the empty net with 1:18 remaining in regulation.

Special teams were again the difference as the Panthers went 0 for 3 on the power play and yielded a shorty to Letang. While they did a decent job of staying out of the box, allowing the Penguins to score twice on three chances isn’t exactly a recipe for success. As they are wont to do, Pittsburgh’s stars were all over the score sheet. The Cats were missing leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov was held to a single shot on goal. The Panthers will lick their wounds and hit the road for difficult games in Newark and Boston.

Chilly & Willy

  • Kris Letang, who led Pittsburgh in ice time, scored a goal and added an assist in his third game back since having a stroke. The Penguins also got multipoint nights from Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
  • Aaron Ekblad played his 574th NHL game, passing Robert Svehla for the most by a defenseman in Panthers history. Unfortunately, Ekblad went -2 and took the penalty that led to the eventual game-winning goal.
  • Both goaltenders delivered quality starts. A sensational Tristan Jarry got the win and finished with 32 saves. An unlucky (no chance on the second and third goals) Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 35 of 38 shots.
  • With Anton Lundell, Colin White and Chris Tierney already out and Matthew Tkachuk calling in sick, the Panthers iced 17 skaters and played a forward down.
  • Pittsburgh has scored at least one power-play goal during its seven-game winning streak and are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games.
  • Stop by Pensburgh for more on the Cats latest defeat./