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Snap Shots: Cats 4, Pens 2

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-2 loss against Florida at BB&T Center.

REACTION

This game featured another defensively tough game for Pittsburgh. The Panthers were missing star defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Vincent Trocheck. The Penguins' laundry list of injured players includes top end players like Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk and Brian Dumoulin.

With both teams missing some big guns in its lineups, there was a real emphasis on playing smart, defensive hockey. The Pens and Panthers defended hard and gave little. It came down to a game of mistakes. And the Pens made one more than Florida.

* Fluky goals are a part of the game, but sometimes they will burn you. That was the case on Florida's first goal of the game. Noel Acciari took a shot from above the circles that Matt Murray knocked away with his elbow. The puck popped into the air. As Murray backed into his net, the puck returned via gravity to hit Murray, rolling down his back and into the net.

"It took a funny bounce off my blocker and I lost it," Murray said. "That ends up being the difference in the game tonight, and that's on me."

It was a bizarre play. But sometimes the hockey gods can be merciless. Hard to blame Murray on that one. Sometimes the bounces go your way, sometimes they don't.

* The trio of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon clearly have developed some chemistry. There were three plays in which all three players anticipated each other's movements and created glorious scoring chances.

On one play in the first period they played tic-tac-toe in the offensive zone with Crosby (goal line) going to Simon (above near circle) going to Guentzel (above far circle) going back to Simon, who shot the puck on the net. Though the shot was blocked it was a clear display of smarts and familiarity with each other. Perhaps a bit of overpassing, as well.

A similar play took place in the second period as Crosby gained the blue line, drew two Panthers and dropped the puck to Simon. Without hesitation, Simon snapped a cross-ice pass to Guentzel for a quick one-time snap shot.

* But it's hard to top the chemistry of Guentzel, Crosby and Patric Hornqvist. The threesome came together for a late third period goal as Guentzel made a beautiful cross-crease pass in which Hornqvist finished. The coaching staff reunited the triad in order to spark the team in the final frame.

* Perhaps the save of the night though belonged to Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. With the game scoreless in the second period there was a scramble at the Pittsburgh net. Murray was down and out. The Panthers had a wide-open cage, but Letang stuck out his skate and soccer-style kicked the puck away right at the goal line.

* The Pens got some good news on the injury front as center Jared McCann returned to the lineup. He's missed two of the last three games due to injuries.

* Pens fans certainly travel well. And Florida is one of their favorite places to invade. That was evident again on Tuesday night. A rowdy "Let's go Pens!" chant broke out in the third period. And the crowd noise was just as loud, if not louder, when Pittsburgh scored vs. when Florida scored.

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