Assistant coach Gary Agnew gives his three impressions from the Penguins’ 5-1 win against the Florida Panthers.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury again. Through two periods they were putting some pretty good shots on net. He hung in there and gave us a chance to work our way through the funk and get the victory.
2. I thought the power play moved the puck around well. It was more of a shoot-first mentality and then retrieve the puck, and start all over again. It resulted in the (Patric) Hornqvist goal.
3. (Evgeni Malkin’s) speed and determination, coming back and stripping people of pucks and taking pucks to the net was outstanding.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box.
1. The Pens took this game over late in the second and never looked back. They didn’t come out with a lot of energy and were just okay until they got a big goal from Evgeni Malkin with 27 seconds left in that period. The Pens continued that momentum into the third, where Paul Martin scored just 19 seconds in. A lot of times this season the Pens have struggled late in games when they’ve been up by being too passive, but today they got even stronger as the game wound down and protected the lead perfectly by continuing to add to it. They didn’t sit back and try to let the clock run out; they stayed aggressive and kept taking it to their opponent. So I guess to sum it up, I liked how they kept battling to score while not giving the Panthers anything defensively.
"If you score in the last minute to end the period, it’s always important," Malkin said. "We lead 1-0, but in the second period, we didn’t play right. But this goal, I think it relaxed the team and in the third period, we just dominated."
2. Patric Hornqvist has brought the Penguins power play back from the dead. He scored his second in as many games on the man-advantage, breaking their nine-game drought without one. Yesterday, he scored from the high slot; today, he scored from the top of the crease. Malkin told me afterward that the guys talked and said they needed to not just move the puck, but move bodies too and it’s working. Today Crosby drew a couple of Panthers to him as he skated behind the net, leaving Hornqvist open in front to slam home his pass.
"We had a long time without scoring," Malkin said with a wry laugh. "We talked a lot last week and we come back and I play the point again, how we started at the beginning of the season, with the same line, same five guys. We talked before and just said don’t just move the puck, move bodies too and you see it’s working. Just keep it the same. Focus, relax, and we’re good."
3. I know we talk about Fleury every time, but his play is forcing us to. Fleury is just on another level right now. Even though the final score was 5-1, as head coach Mike Johnston said, “at times tonight he was our best player.” The Panthers didn’t just have a high volume of shots early; they were all quality. After firing 16 pucks on Fleury in the first period, the Panthers really took over in the second in terms of scoring chances. But Fleury was up for the challenge, as he looked mentally sharp and sound throughout. He’s been playing like this a lot over his last stretch of games, but wasn’t getting help from his teammates at the other end. Tonight, he finally did.
"He's the MVP of this game, MVP of this season," Malkin said. "He saved a couple chances and gave us the chance to win. Flower is very important for us."