The Florida Panthers spoiled goaltender Jeff Zatkoff’s NHL debut.
Zatkoff, 26, was on the wrong end of a 6-3 final in BB&T Center Friday night. He finished the game with 24 saves.
“It was good to get in, but not the way I planned for it to go,” Zatkoff said. “I need to make a few more saves in critical times in the game. I wasn’t able to do that. That was the difference. I have to be better.”
Zatkoff, who led the American Hockey League with a 1.93 goals-against average in 2012-13, made his first NHL save 21 seconds after puck drop when he turned aside a slap shot by Tomas Fleischmann.
Zatkoff surrendered his first goal two minutes into the first period when he was beat by a Brad Boyes shot.
Head coach Dan Bylsma did not put the loss solely on the shoulders of his netminder.
“He got his first start in the National Hockey League today and it was not the opportunities we wanted him to face,” Bylsma said. “The chances and opportunities we gave up in this game right from the start, a couple three-on-twos. … That’s a tough spot to be in. We just gave them way too many opportunities in those cases.
One staple of the Penguins’ first three victories of the season was their commitment to structured defense. But they seemed to get away from that approach, and caught up in a more up-and-down attack while playing from behind against the Panthers.
“There were a lot of chances both ways, that’s not how we want to play,” Craig Adams said. “We want to play with sustained shifts in the offensive zone.”
“They like to play a pretty fast game and get their D involved,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “If you take chances or turn the puck over they’re coming at you pretty quick. It reinforces that much more that you have to take care of the puck. We didn’t do that. We didn’t execute well.”
The turning point of the game occurred in the second period with Paul Martin and Joe Vitale in the penalty box and the score tied at 2-2. The Panthers had 1:34 minutes worth of a 5-on-3 advantage. And they would score on both chances.
Kris Versteeg’s shot from the near side went off the post and behind Zatkoff. Jonathan Huberdeau batted it in over the line to give Florida a 3-2 lead. Just 1:06 later, Aleksander Barkov, the second-overall pick in the 2013 NHLDraft, shot a puck from the goal line that went off of Martin’s shin guard and through Zatkoff to make it a 4-2 game.
“We got back in the game and the 5-on-3 was a turning point,” Adams said. “We were playing from behind after that.”
ADAMS SCORES AGAIN
Adams continued his torrid scoring pace. Adams, sporting a bloody lip from a high stick earlier in the game, charged to the front of the net and buried a puck for his third goal of the year.
Adams also tallied in the Penguins first two games. His three goals tie teammate Jussi Jokinen for the team lead.
“It’s always nice for our line to score, but it’s a disappointing result for our team,” Adams said.
Author: Sam Kasan