|@ Panthers (31-15-6)||0||1||1||2|
The Panthers and the Penguins came out swinging in the first. The Panthers had the chance to pull ahead early on when Carl Hagelin was penalized for hooking but alas, the puck stayed out of the net. With this penalty killed, the game remained fairly even and would prove to be a tough one to win. The Penguins had a really close call midway through the period but Luongo was right there to save it. Meanwhile, although gameplay seemed fairly tied, the Panthers were dominating in shots on goal, which is truly quite rare for them. With 4:31 left in the frame, the Panthers would get another power play opportunity because Olli Maatta was sent to the sin bin on a tripping call. The penalty was killed with ease. As opposed to the power play last game against Detroit, this power play was abysmal. Neither team was able to score in the first period but the Panthers held the edge in shots on goal 20-9. The Panthers had a fairly decent first period, but they did not take enough quality shots. They actually had a lot of shots on goal, but the amount of those shots that actually could’ve gone in is far less. Also, their power play left much to be desired. However, the Panthers made some good plays and stayed out of the penalty box and they should continue to do so in the rest of the game.
The second period started with yet another Penguins penalty. Trevor Daley was penalized for delay of game but the Panthers had only a few seconds on the power play before they got a penalty of their own. Nick Bjugstad was called for hooking and some 4-on-4 hockey ensued. Long-time Penguins fan Vincent Trocheck had a great opportunity on the breakaway but Zatkoff was just able to save it. Both penalties were killed but Ben Lovejoy high-sticked Quinton Howden right afterwards and the penalties continued. A questionable offsides call and some defensive Penguins play nearly killed the penalty, but Jussi Jokinen was able to prevent that from happening. His goal, assisted by Vincent Trocheck and Brian Campbell, put the Panthers on the board. The Panthers continued to nearly triple the Penguins in shots on goal, so Zatkoff should be given credit for saving the majority of those. With 2:36 left in the period, the Panthers had a penalty to kill because Aaron Ekblad was called for interference. The penalty was killed, though, and the Panthers led the Penguins 1-0 at the end of the period. They also still kept a sizable lead in shots on goal 34-18. The Panthers played very similarly in the second to how they played in the first but this time, their penalty kill was redressed and better than it had been before. This made a big difference in the Panthers’ gameplay and allowed them to get on the board, but a one goal lead should never feel safe, especially against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The beginning of the third period was very physical. Steven Kampfer had an incredible hit on Oksar Sundqvist. Sadly, not all of the hits could be legal. Jaromir Jagr was called for interference on an illegal hit early in the frame. The Cats were able to clear the puck enough to kill the penalty. Sidney Crosby was called for tripping right after, but as per usual, he did not head to the box without giving the refs an earful. The penalty was killed nonetheless and in the back-and-forth fashion that had been so evident in the final frame, Derek MacKenzie was sent to the penalty box on a holding call. Have no fear, Panthers fans. Something magical was about to happen. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it was Alesksander Barkov on a shorthanded breakaway to save the day. Jussi Jokinen assisted the goal and the Panthers went on the kill the penalty. With 5:04 left in the game, the Penguins found a glimmer of hope named Kris Letang. He scored to put the Pens within one. Luckily for the Panthers, Luongo still looked very strong. The Panthers could not rely solely on Luongo though. I mentioned that a one goal lead is never safe and that proved true tonight. With just over a minute left in the game, Sidney Crosby was able to get the puck past Luongo to tie up the game. At the end of regulation, the score was tied at two but the Panthers still held the edge in shots on goal 42-29. The Panthers really need to work their offense in overtime to win this one.
Things did not look good for the Panthers in the beginning of overtime. Within seconds, they were on the penalty kill due to a Jussi Jokinen hooking call. That did it. Kris Letang scored and the Penguins won.
Jussi Jokinen extended his point streak to six games on a wide angle shot that beat Zatkoff, as well as an assist on the Barkov goal. Vincent Trocheck channeled some of the energy he had as a child in his picture with Mario Lemieux and remained a strong offensive force throughout the whole game. He even assisted the Jokinen goal.
Aleksander Barkov did what he does best and completely sniped Zatkoff in his first career shorthanded goal. The loss was not Roberto Luongo’s fault. In fact, he was probably the best Panther tonight. Without him, the Panthers wouldn’t have gotten that point.
The Panthers will head on the road on Monday, February 8th, to face the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 pm ET. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.