SUNRISE, Fla. – Another game against the Florida Panthers, another 2-0 third-period deficit, another late rally and, yet, another victory in the extra session for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins scored two third-period goals, the second coming with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, and a power-play tally in overtime to pull off a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center.
“It’s not a recipe we draw up,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You don’t want to have to come from behind but a lot of the things we did allowed us to have a strong third period. The guys poured it on and played great in the third, set us up for the overtime and power-play goal.”
“I thought we stuck with things, it didn’t come very easy,” Crosby said. “We had some great chances throughout the game. … Guys stuck with things. We got two big goals there in the third.”
In this comeback edition, the Penguins used a collective effort to pull even in the final minutes of regulation following a dominant shift. With five minutes left in the third period, Pittsburgh put together its best sustained offensive zone pressure of the season, culminating with Mike Rupp’s game-tying goal with 3:32 remaining.
The Penguins, who outshot Florida 16-3 in the third period and 6-0 in overtime, took advantage of two broken Florida sticks and a tenacious effort that allowed them to win loose puck battles along the wall. The Panthers five-man unit grew weary and the Penguins kept the pressure coming.
“Even though we were down, as a club we knew we could be better but we liked what we were doing,” Rupp said. “We just kept doing it. We were shooting the puck when we had opportunities to shoot the puck. We were wearing them down a little bit.
We were able to do a good job of controlling the puck and kept a good flurry there for a while and were rewarded for it. - MIke Rupp
“We were able to do a good job of controlling the puck and kept a good flurry there for a while and were rewarded for it.”
Pittsburgh was rewarded after forward Evgeni Malkin
was able to push a loose puck from behind the net into the slot where Rupp slid it past Florida netminder Tomas Vokoun.
“It’s fun playing with a guy like (Malkin),” Rupp said. “When he gets the puck there, I recognize his skill and I’m going to let him do his thing. Tired or not, Geno’s a pretty darn good play. I figured if I hang in front the puck’s going to get there. He made a great play too.”
Although Rupp ended up the beneficiary of the play, it was a total team effort and the determination that allowed the Penguins to avoid defeat would ultimately lift them to victory.
The Penguins, who led the NHL with 10 third-period comebacks last season, clinched the victory with Sidney Crosby
’s overtime power-play tally. Malkin sent a hard shot on net from above the near circle. Vokoun made the save but wasn’t able to stop Crosby’s rebound attempt.
But the win wouldn’t have been possible without the team’s offensive zone execution on the late tying tally.
“I’m not sure how the puck got out to (Rupp),” Bylsma said. “I just saw his hands go into the air and the bench erupt. I haven’t put a clock on that shift but it was one of our best shifts of the year.”