Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers.
1. BEYOND REGULATION AGAIN
The first two games between these teams went to overtime, with the Pens winning 3-2 in both instances. After practice on Saturday, I asked a few of the guys how they could keep that from happening a third straight time. Marc-Andre Fleury just smiled and said, “You know what, as long as we win, it’s great. Just here for two points and that’s all that matters.” While they didn’t get both, at least the Pens were able to come away with one after trailing for the majority of the game. That’s thanks to Chris Kunitz, who came up with a huge goal off the faceoff with just 3:19 left to play in regulation. His line with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist was by far the Pens’ strongest all game long.
2. COOLED OFF
The Pens’ offense has really cooled off their last three games, as they have just two regulation goals over that span – both tallies coming from a member of the top-six. The Pens are obviously missing a few key players, including Evgeni Malkin – so that’s definitely a big reason for the offensive slump. But with those guys out, Pittsburgh needs to start getting more from their bottom-six on the scoresheet and the power play needs to get back on track. They didn’t get either of that here tonight. The good news is that while the Pens aren't scoring much, they didn't give up a lot on this trip either. Marc-Andre Fleury was phenomenal, allowing just two regulation goals to help the Pens get three of a possible four points.
I asked Kunitz about the Pens' struggles offensively...
"Our power play’s got to be better. We had attempts tonight where we maybe made one more pass or if we simplified it, we maybe could have had a different outcome. It’s a tough game. Everyone’s fighting for points, especially when everyone’s watching the standings. We know that every single game we get leapfrogged if we don’t get a couple points. Everyone’s trying, everyone’s wanting to score goals. We’re taking pucks there, a lot of our guys are inches away from getting someone there first. Maybe it just takes one to get everybody out of the little slump."
3. IMPERFECT START
On Saturday afternoon, Sidney Crosby told me the start was going to be particularly important against these guys – “especially on the road, especially against this team,” he told me. And that was before the Panthers lost to Nashville 5-0 on Saturday night. So while the Pens knew the Panthers would be looking to respond from a tough game, they weren’t able to match that intensity and urgency. I didn’t think the Pens were necessarily bad; it’s just that Florida was definitely the better team and scored first as a result.