It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh as the Penguins welcomed the Florida Panthers to the Consol Energy Center for the first time this season. Following a nail-biting, one goal loss Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins were looking to bounce back against a Florida team that handed the Flyers a 7-0 loss the evening before.
Neither team would be able to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the first, the play seemingly bouncing back and forth. Beau Bennet would come close to notching his first after picking up a rebound from James Neal, but the puck would skim the crease before clearing. The teams would exchange power plays as Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau was called for a hold with eleven minutes left on the clock and Marc-Andre Fleury called for a trip with just over eight minutes left in the frame. The Penguins would earn a second power-play opportunity with just over three minutes left in the first when Peter Mueller was called for a trip. They wouldn’t be able to capitalize and the score board would read 0-0 heading into the second. The Penguins held the advantage in shots, outshooting the Panthers 12 to 2.
The Penguins would dominate play in the second period and would be rewarded for their efforts with a goal, but not before the Panthers notched one first. Despite confining Florida to their zone and testing net-minder Jakob Markstrom repeatedly and for an extended period of time, the Panthers would net the first goal with 11:35 left in the second period courtesy of a shot from the point by Mike Weaver that would be tipped in by rookie Jonathan Huberdeau, but would still be credited to Weaver. Just over a minute later, the Penguins would head to the power play when Jerred Smithson was called for a hook and it would be Chris Kunitz tying the game at a goal apiece. Kunitz would dig around the crease and pick up a rebound, slipping it past Markstrom for the goal. The Penguins would continue to rush Florida’s zone but they would be unable to capitalize before the second horn. At the end of forty, the Penguins would hold a 27 to 13 advantage in shots.
Just a minute and a half into the third, the Penguins would head to the penalty kill when Tyler Kennedy was sent to the box. Pittsburgh would successfully kill it off, but the moments that followed would be tense. Florida’s Erik Gudbranson whose chase Evgeni Malkin down ice and steer him off the puck and into the boards, Malkin crashing into them hard. He would stay down and a trainer would be sent out to attend to him.
Geno would eventually get to his feet but would head to the locker room immediately, albeit a little unsteadily. The Penguins would earn another power play opportunity with less than fourteen minutes left in the period when Tomas Kopecky was called for a slash. The Panthers would kill the penalty off, but they would wind up with a goal. It would be Matt Niskanen beating Markstrom from the far side with a shot from the point giving the Penguins a 2-1 lead. The Penguins would continue to dominate play, and with just over four and half minutes left to go in regulation, it would be Dustin Jeffrey giving the Penguins a two-goal lead. Matt Cooke would send a pass toward the front of the net and Jeffrey would be there to direct it in. And with that, the Penguins would take It (despite having an empty net in the final minute of the game,) earning their fourth home win of the season.
Kris Letang would lead all skaters with 26:44 of ice time, followed by Paul Martin with 24:14. Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis would each register five shots on goal while Tyler Kennedy and James Neal had four of their own. Marc-Andre Fleury would face 23 shots while the Pens would send 40 toward Jakob Markstrom. With 24 points, the Penguins sit second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins will hit the ice again on Sunday when they face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game time is 7:30pm.