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Aftermath: Panthers 6, Penguins 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Pittsburgh continued its recent skid with a 6-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. The Penguins lost their fourth straight game - not to mention their fifth consecutive home game. In one month, Pittsburgh went from fourth in the Eastern Conference standings to No. 9 and out of the playoff picture.

Pittsburgh outplayed Florida - which was also riding a four-game losing stretch into the game - in the first half of the game but couldn’t overcome a couple of mistakes that resulted in goals against. The Penguins switched goalies every period and couldn’t get anything going offensively.  

The biggest highlight from the game was Sidney Crosby’s second career fight. Crosby sparred with Brett McLean and finished with 21 penalty minutes in the contest, most of his career.
(AP) -Nathan Horton scored twice and the Florida Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 6-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday that sent the Penguins to their fourth straight loss.

Ville Peltonen, Bryan McCabe, Richard Zednik and Michael Frolik also scored for Florida, which pulled to within three points of the Penguins for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Ruslan Fedotenko scored for Pittsburgh, which has lost 10 of 14 and five straight at home. Florida goalie Craig Anderson stopped 29 shots.

Pascal Dupuis fights for the puck and absorbs a check from Jay Bouwmeester
(photo by Getty)
What Worked: First Half of the Game
The Penguins outplayed Florida during the first half of the matchup. Pittsburgh outshot the Panthers, 10-5, in the first period but couldn’t get a puck beyond Panthers goalie Craig Anderson. The Penguins notched an early goal in the second period and looked to be on their way to making some noise. But Florida would score two power-play goals three minutes apart and things fell apart for Pittsburgh from there.

What Didn't Work: Goaltending
When a head coach switches goaltenders every period, that’s never a good sign. Michel Therrien pulled Marc-Andre Fleury following the game’s opening period. But Dany Sabourin didn’t play much better and Therrein went back to Fleury for the third. Anytime you outshoot a team 10-5 in the first period, you’re very unlikely to be down 2-0. However, Florida notched two goals on its first four shots to jump out to an early lead despite being outplayed. The Panthers ended up with six goals on 24 shots. 
Nathan Horton was drafted two picks behind Marc-Andre Fleury in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The shifty forward notched two goals in the game to help the Panthers snap their four-game losing streak. On both scores, he had a clear shot on goal, including a breakaway. Horton grabbed a turnover in the neutral zone and created a two-on-one. Instead of passing, he wristed the puck under Fleury’s left arm. On the second goal, Horton jetted through the Penguins defense, which was standing still, and took a pass to setup a breakaway. Horton didn’t make a move, opting to send a quick shot into the goal that beat Dany Sabourin.
 Florida used a deceptive pass to fool Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to notch the game’s first goal. Defenseman Keith Ballard had the puck along the near blue line. He made a pass to Ville Peltonen, who was skating right next to him. Fleury thought Ballard was going to pass all the way across the ice and slid all the way to his left, losing track of the puck. By the time he realized Peltonen had the puck he tried desperately to get back into position but couldn’t prevent the Panthers winger from burying his fifth goal of the year. Florida 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney couldn’t keep a clearing attempt in the zone and Florida’s Nathan Horton picked up the puck with speed in the neutral zone. With Whitney trapped deep and trying to recover, the Panthers Richard Zednik created a two-on-one with Brooks Orpik as the lone man back. Horton carried the puck in and flipped a shot over the left shoulder of Fleury to increase Florida’s lead. Florida 2, Pittsburgh 0.

Ruslan Fedotenko used an intelligent play to notch his 11th goal of the season 1:37 into the second period to get Pittsburgh on the board. Evgeni Malkin was fighting for a puck off of a faceoff in the Florida zone. Fedotenko sneaked to the opposite side of the goal in anticipation that the Panthers would try to clear the puck behind the goal. Florida did just that, gaining the puck and banking it off the backboards. However, Fedotenko was there to pick up the puck and sent a quick shot into the goal before Florida goaltender Craig Anderson could get his pad to the far post. Florida 2, Pittsburgh 1.

The Panthers responded with a power-play goal to reclaim their two-goal lead. Corey Stillman had the puck along the near goal line and made a crossing pass to defenseman Bryan McCabe. The veteran blueliner sneaked a shot just beyond Dany Sabourin’s left pad. Florida 3, Pittsburgh 1.

Florida advanced its lead with another power-play goal just over three minutes later. McCabe sent a slap shot onto the net from the blue line. Sabourin got his left pad on the puck but the rebound came right to the stick of Zednik, who buried his fifth score of the year. Florida 4, Pittsburgh 1.

Horton notched his second goal of the game to extend Florida’s lead to 5-1. Horton sneaked between Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang when Ballard hit him with a perfect pass, sending him in on a breakaway. Horton drilled home the shot for the score. Florida 5, Pittsburgh 1.

The Panthers piled it on with their sixth goal of the game. Pittsburgh had a delayed penalty call coming against it when Michael Frolik collected a pass in the slot and beat Fleury with a quick wrist shot. Florida 6, Pittsburgh 1.
Tyler Kennedy returned to the Penguins lineup for the first time since suffering a sprained knee Dec. 3 at the New York Rangers. He had missed the team’s previous 14 games due to the injury but was reunited with former linemates Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke.

Penguins head coach Michel Therrien replaced starting goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury at the start of the second period with Dany Sabourin. Fleury allowed two goals on five shots in the first period. Sabourin allowed three goals on 12 shots in the second period and was replaced by Fleury to start the third.

The Penguins scratched Eric Godard but that didn’t stop them from dropping the gloves. Pittsburgh’s frustrations topped out while the team was down 4-1. First, Sidney Crosby and Gregory Campbell exchanged pleasantries and got in each other’s face. Five minutes later Maxime Talbot tried to change the momentum and stick up for his captain when he dropped the gloves with Campbell following a faceoff. Talbot landed a number of punches and easily won the fight. Mellon Arena erupted on the following faceoff when Crosby also lost his gloves and grabbed Brett McLean. McLean looked unprepared and was in Crosby’s grasp before he even realized they were fighting. Though no hits were thrown, Crosby did pull McLean face-first to the ice and bloodied his nose. Crosby received a fighting, instigator, unsportsmanlike and game misconduct penalties for his shenanigans. Crosby collected 21 PIMs in the game, the most of his career.
> Pittsburgh dropped to 19-16-4 on the year, with an 8-8-2 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins have lost five straight games at home.

> Florida jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Ville Peltonen (5) and Nathan Horton (9) in the first period. Ruslan Fedotenko got Pittsburgh on the board with his 11th score of the year 1:37 into the second period. The Panthers scored the game’s next four goals to take a 6-1 lead with scores from Bryan McCabe (7), Richard Zednik (5), Horton’s second of the game (10) and Michael Frolik (7). 

> Evgeni Malkin was scoreless against Florida but still leads the NHL in points with 60 (15G-45A). Malkin has eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in his last 19 games. Malkin’s 45 assists are a league best.

> Sidney Crosby was scoreless against the Panthers. Crosby has nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in his last 21 games. He is third in the league in scoring with 50 points (15G-35A). His 35 assists are tied for third most in the league.

> Fedotenko scored his 11th goal of the season and third score in the past five games. The Ukraine native has notched a point in four of his last five games.

> Petr Sykora was scoreless against Florida but he has 16 points in his last 15 games (8G-8A). In his past 11 games, Sykora has six goals and six assists for 12 points.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 85th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,042.
1. Nathan Horton, FLA
2. Bryan McCabe, FLA
3. Craig Anderson, FLA
“We've kind of been dragging on the bottom there.
We've kind of hit it and kind of stalled here for a while now.
Time is a little precious here. You look at the standings
and every game we lose we're falling down.”
- Brooks Orpik


Author: Sam Kasan

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