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Aftermath: Panthers 4, Penguins 2

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The Penguins were in the unenviable position of playing back-to-back games on the road less than 20 hours apart. Pittsburgh opened the game strong and dominated the first period, outshooting Florida 19-7, and carried a decisive edge in the play.

Florida’s Keith Ballard sparked his team with a big hit on Malkin (see intriguing notables) and fatigue caught up to Pittsburgh in the final two periods. The Penguins never gave up and clawed to within one goal of Florida, but in the end the Panthers prevailed with a 4-2 victory.

The Penguins are still two points shy of clinching a playoff spot. The team will regroup and should come out strong against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) - Bryan McCabe and Rostislav Olesz each had a goal and an assist to lead the Florida Panthers to a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.

Florida, vying for its first playoff berth since 2000, has 89 points with three games remaining. The Rangers, who lost 1-0 to Boston on Saturday, hold the edge over Florida because they have one more victory.

Pascal Dupuis and Mark Eaton scored for the Penguins, who could have secured a playoff spot with a win Sunday. It was just their second regulation loss in 18 games. The Penguins, who have 93 points after 79 games, were coming off a 3-2 overtime loss in Carolina on Saturday night.
 
PLAYOFF CHASE
 
 
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 78 42-25-11 95
5. *Carolina 79 44-28-7 95
6. Pittsburgh 79 42-28-9 93
7. Montreal 78 41-27-10 92
8. NY Rangers 79 40-30-9 89
9. Florida 79 39-29-11 89
10. Buffalo 78 38-31-9 85

                     
Remaining Schedules:
Buffalo: (4) - Detroit (Mon); @ Toronto (Wed); @ Carolina (Thur); Boston (Sat)
*Carolina: (3) - NY Islanders (Tue); Buffalo (Thur); New Jersey (Sat);
Florida: (3) - @ Philadelphia (Tue); @ Atlanta (Thur); Washington (Sat)
Montreal: (4) - Ottawa (Mon); @ NY Rangers (Tue); @ Boston (Thur); Pittsburgh (Sat)
NY Rangers: (3) - Montreal (Tue); Philadelphia (Thur); @ Philadelphia (Sun)
Philadelphia: (4) - Florida (Tue); @ NY Rangers (Thur); @ NY Islanders (Sat); Ny Rangers (Sun)

* - clinched playoff berth
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby protects teammate Evgeni Malkin by challenging Keith Ballard to a fight (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked Well: Pucks On Net
The Penguins used the Panthers goal for a little target practice. Pittsburgh put 43 shots on net, including 19 in the first period. Unfortunately, Florida’s goaltender Tomas Vokoun played extremely well, making 41 saves, and was the difference in the game.

What Could Have Gone Better: Beating the Goal Post
There’s a saying that a goaltender’s best friend is the goal post. The iron came up big for Vokoun and the Panthers. Trailing 3-1 in the third period, Pittsburgh was denied twice by the goal post on shots from Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Pascal Dupuis was flying all over the ice and provided a spark for the Penguins. He showed some guts, playing in front of the net, and was rewarded with a goal. Dupuis was playing so well that interim head coach Dan Bylsma put him on a line with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
The Panthers used a fortunate bounce to net the game’s opening goal just two minutes after the opening puck drop. Jason Cullimore flipped the puck into the Penguins zone. The bouncing puck eluded Hal Gill and Rostislav Olesz calmed it before lifting a backhand shot over the outstretched glove of Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net. Florida 1, Pittsburgh 0.

The Penguins were rewarded with some dirty work with the tying goal in the first period. Pittsburgh worked along the boards and fought in front of the Florida net for opportunities. Tyler Kennedy threw the puck towards the crease, where Pascal Dupuis hacked the loose puck into the goal. Pittsburgh 1, Florida 1.

The Panthers regained the lead with 19 seconds left in the opening period. It was a four-on-four situation when Bryan McCabe, coming late on the play, picked up the puck in the Penguins zone and ripped a shot from above the circles. The puck appeared to be re-directed on its way to net and eluded Fleury. Florida 2, Pittsburgh 1.

Florida added to its lead with a power-play goal with 11.1 seconds left in the second period. The Panthers had a 6-on-4 advantage, thanks to the existing power play coupled with a delayed penalty on the Penguins. The Panthers found David Booth at the near side of the net. Booth one-timed the shot into a vacant cage. Florida 3, Pittsburgh 1.

The Penguins cut into Florida’s lead with a power-play goal 14 minutes into the third period. Mark Eaton rifled a shot from the midpoint that was deflected behind Tomas Vokoun. Florida 3, Pittsburgh 2.

The Panthers answered Pittsburgh’s power-play goal with their own score 1:50 minutes later. Ville Peltonen had the puck behind the Penguins net. He stuffed a wraparound shot into the far side of the goal. Florida 4, Pittsburgh 2.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Pittsburgh dominated the start of the game. The turning point occurred towards the end of the first period. It all started when Evgeni Malkin was carrying the puck over the Florida blue line by the near wall. Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard was preparing to hip check the Penguins’ star. Malkin saw Ballard coming but the puck was caught up in his skates. Malkin concentrated on controlling the puck while embracing for the hit. Ballard got low and Malkin tried to sidestep, but the collision caused Malkin to propel 180 degrees into the air, landing on his head. Thankfully he was OK. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, sticking up for his teammate and friend, dropped the gloves with Ballard. Ballard landed a few punches to the helmet but Crosby wrestled Ballard to the ice. Florida played timid until that hit. After that, the Panthers came alive.

Malkin, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy was the combination at the game’s opening faceoff. Interim head coach Dan Bylsma regularly changed up his line combinations from puck drop to the final whistle.

On a strategic note, the Panthers dropped three players back in a defensive posture to suffocate the Penguins’ rush. Pittsburgh successfully countered in the first period by gaining the blue line and dropping the puck to a trailer, the front players drove towards the goal and Florida’s three-man gap crumbled. Florida’s scheme worked much better in the second and third periods and the Penguins were frustrated with the results.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh dropped its record to 42-28-9 on the year with an 18-15-6 mark on the road. The Penguins are 13-2-3 in their last 18 games.

> Pittsburgh is 15-3-4 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> Scoring Summary:
FLA, R.Olesz (4), 1:55 1st period: Panthers 1, Penguins 0
PIT, P.Dupuis (11), 6:08 1st period: Penguins 1, Panthers 1
FLA, B.McCabe (14), 19:40 1st period: Panthers 2, Penguins 1
FLA, D.Booth PP (28), 19:48 2nd period: Panthers 3, Penguins 1
PIT, M.Eaton PP (4), 14:06 3rd period: Panthers 3, Penguins 2
FLA, V.Peltonen (12), 15:55 3rd period: Panthers 4, Penguins 2

> Evgeni Malkin did not score but still leads the NHL in points with 108 (34G-74A). Malkin’s 108 points sets a new career high (previously 106) and his 74 assists are a league-best and a new career high.

> Malkin has tallied 30-plus goals (34) in three straight seasons and has broken the 100-point barrier (108) for the second consecutive season.

> Sidney Crosby went scoreless against Florida. He is third in the league in scoring with 99 points (30G-69A) and his 69 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 74.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves in the game. He is 12-2-3 in his last 17 games.

> Pascal Dupuis snapped a nine-game goal-less streak with a tally. His goal was the 200th point of his career.

>
Mark Eaton scored his fourth goal of the year, tying a single-season career high.

> Tyler Kennedy notched an assist for his third point (1G-2A) in two games.

>
Jordan Staal tallied an assist for his third point (1G-2A) in three games.
 
THREE STARS
 1. B.McCabe, Fla
2. T.Vokoun, Fla
3. K.Ballard, Fla

 



Author: Sam Kasan

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