Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 3-2 overtime win against the Florida Panthers.
Jeff Zatkoff made his first start in goal since Jan. 18 at St. Louis. He was thrown into duty on Friday night in Tampa Bay halfway through the game and played extremely well in tough circumstances. He earned himself a start. Zatkoff was strong early, turning aside 20 shots in the first period. He had to make a couple remarkable saves in the middle frame, stopping Vincent Trocheck on a breakaway and Steven Kampfer from point-blank in the slot. Overall, it was an excellent game from the backup, who stopped 40 of 42 shots. The only major blemish on his performance came on Jussi Jokinen’s goal. The former Pen was below the goal line and tried a centering pass. The puck deflected off of Zatkoff’s own stick and flipped into the netting.
The best player in the game for either team was Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang. Offensively, he scored two goals for the Pens, both on nice one-timer shots (as I always say, good things happen when Letang shoots the puck). He was reading the play well, making smart passes and didn’t turn the puck over. Letang’s passes were crisp and on point, including his game-tying setup for Sidney Crosby in the final 80 seconds. And, of course, he finished on his opportunities. Defensively, Letang was even better. He fended off several Panthers in one-on-one situations, had a strong stick and was in good position all evening. Letang was a dynamic force on the ice.
3. Comeback Kids
The Panthers were 22-2-3 when leading after two periods entering tonight. Make that 22-2-4 after tonight. The Pens erased a late two-goal deficit in the final five minutes, including netting the game-tying goal with 75 seconds remaining. The Pens are hurting right now due to injuries. They aren’t going to beat many teams on talent alone. They’re going to have to scrap, claw and fight for everything that they get. It was a gutsy effort by the Pens and they were rewarded with two huge points.