Recap: Game 20 – Penguins vs. Panthers

A scrum breaks out in front of the Penguins net Tuesday night in Floriday. (Courtesy of Getty Images.)

The Penguins were on the road again, this time finding themselves in the Sunshine state to go toe-to-toe with the Florida Panthers for the second time in less than a week.  Coming off back-to-back wins against Florida teams, the Penguins were looking for a third consecutive win as well as a continuation of their dominating play on the road. The Panthers, for their part, were looking to rebound following two consecutive losses.

The game was off to a slow start, neither team really hustling. The Penguins would draw their first penalty of the night just two and a half minutes into the game when Florida’s Shawn Matthias was called for a trip. Pittsburgh’s power-play proved to be ineffective and the Penguins were held without goal. Florida, however, would be able to capitalize on their power play when Tyler Kennedy earned a two-minute break after he finished a check following an icing call. This opened up an opportunity for Tomas Kopecky to pick up a rebound from Brian Campbell and bank it passed Tomas Vokoun for the go-ahead goal. Florida would maintain their one goal lead through the final five minutes of the period, heading into the second with the lead.

The second period would see an absolute barrage of goals – seven in total – in what can only be characterized as a whirlwind twenty minutes. With barely a minute off the clock, the Penguins would tie the game courtesy of James Neal. Neal’s shot from the halfwall blasted past Jose Theodore clean, with no screen, tying the game at a goal apiece. What followed would be three consecutive Florida goals followed by three consecutive Penguins goals highlighted by a parade to the penalty box.  With 1:48 off the clock, Matt Cooke was called for delay-of-game and Brooks Orpik for an elbow, providing Florida with 2-man advantage that saw Kopecky capitalize to give the Panthers a one goal lead. In front of Vokoun, a scrum broke out and when all was said and done, the Penguins had earned a power play of their own. (Kris Letang was given two minutes for a cross-check while Vokoun was given two for roughting; Florida’s Brian Campbell also earned two for roughing while Kopecky got four for roughing.) The Panthers killed the penalty off and earned another power-play when Tanner Glass was called for a high-stick. This time, it was Campbell banking in on the man-advantage on a delayed call against Pascal Dupuis. Marcel Goc would earn Florida’s fourth, increasing the Panther’s lead to three goals before the halfway mark of the period. Goc’s goal would signal the end of Tomas Vokoun’s game and Marc-Andre Fleury would be sent in to relive him.

With Fleury in net, it seemed as though the Penguins suddenly awoke from a thirty minute slumber and would respond with three consecutive goals of their own. First up, Dustin Jeffrey snapped a shot from the circle that squeezed through Theodore’s pads and into the net. Chris Kunitz was given a two minute rest, this time the call goalie interference. For the first time since puck drop, the Penguins would successfully kill off a penalty. The penalty-kill would be followed by a goal from Paul Martin, his one-timer blasting past Theodore. With 1:52 left, Jonathan Huberdeau was  called for interference, sending the Penguins to the power play. Chris Kunitz grabbed the puck below the goal line and shuffle it toward the net. His pass deflected off a defenceman and into the netting, and just like that, the game was tied. After a frame that saw seven goals, five of which were scored on the power play, shots favoured Florida 15 to 11.

Scott Clemmensen would relieve Theodore to start the third. With a minute twenty off the clock, Stephen Fleischmann was called for a trip after he hauled down Sidney Crosby. The Penguins were unable to get anything going on the power play and it would be Fleischmann, springing free from the penalty box, bringing Florida ahead with the goal on a 2-on-1 that allowed his shot to go high and in. The Penguins would hold the Panthers without another goal for most of the remainder of the period. However, Fleury would head to the bench for the extra attacker in the final minute and a half, opening up the ice to Florida’s sixth and final goal, giving Kopecky the hat-trick and Florida the win.

Paul Martin led all skaters with 27:24 of ice time while Sidney Crosby had 26:15. James Neal recorded six shots on goal; Chris Kunitz and Matt Cooke had four of their own. Pittsburgh sent 34 shots toward Florida’s net in comparison to Florida’s 36.

The Penguins will head to Carolina to face-off against the Hurricanes for the first time this season on Thursday. Game time is 7:00pm.