|@ Panthers (33-18-6)||1||0||0||1||2|
Jaromir Jagr generated much of the Panthers’ offense in the first five minutes of play, but the Penguins held much of that possession time as well. The Cats jumbled up their lines tonight with the news of the many injuries the players had sustained, so it was interesting to watch teammates that had never played on the same line as each other interact. In the end, it was Nick Bjugstad who scored first to put the Panthers on the board. I almost forgot that the Panthers were capable of scoring first. Alex Petrovic and Brian Campbell assisted the goal. The Panthers not only scored first, but were also called for the first penalty of the night. You win some, you lose some. Steven Kampfer was called for holding and the Cats had a penalty to kill. Some strong defense allowed the Panthers to remain in the lead. With 5 minutes left in the period, the Penguins had a close call that lit up the goal light, but it was waved off on the ice and the call stood. Minutes later, Matt Cullen was called for delay of game and the Panthers would try their hand on the power play. They were not successful this time, but they were able to wind down the period with possession of the puck. At the end of the period, the Panthers led 1-0 but trailed in shots on goal 7-9. This was a good period for the Cats, considering they are missing many key players and are playing with new lines. The Panthers had strong defense in front of the net and did not allow the Pens to get many shots off but their defense along the blue line was not great and allowed the Penguins to enter the offensive zone a bit too much. If they can tighten their defense a little bit, the Panthers should win this one.
The Penguins were on fire in the beginning of the second and did not even allow the Panthers to get a shot off in the first five. This domination could be continued to a whole new level when Jonathan Huberdeau was penalized for holding, but it wasn’t. Oddly enough, this was the first time all period that the puck left the Penguins’ offensive zone. By the halfway point of the period, the Penguins had doubled the Panthers in shots on goal. Al Montoya stopped everything up to that point but he was surely getting worn out. As the period winded down, the Panthers were able to generate more and more offense. They could not convert these chances into goals, though. At the end of the period, the Panthers still led 1-0 and continued to trail in shots on goal 13-21. Instead of improving, the Panthers’ defensive play became exponentially worse. They allowed the Penguins way too much time with the puck and it is only by Montoya’s great saves that the Panthers were able to remain in the lead at the end of the period. If something doesn’t change before the third, the Penguins could very well come back.
Kris Letang was sent to the penalty box on a holding call and the Panthers would have hope to widen their lead. Sidney Crosby had a shorthanded opportunity that nearly ended that hope. He did not score, but his initiative killed the penalty. The Panthers were able to get close to evening out the shots on goal, but the shots that the Penguins had were certainly substantial. Jussi Jokinen had some great shots against his former team but they were just short of goals. The Panthers would get yet another power play opportunity because Kris Letang got his second penalty of the period, this time for delay of game. The power play hardly seemed like an advantage at all, as the Panthers couldn’t even get a shot on goal. Then, the Panthers fans felt a sense of deja vu as Chris Kunitz scored with three minutes left to tie the game. Here we go again. The game was tied at the end of the period and shots were 28-25 Penguins.
There were heart attacks and opportunities on both ends of the ice. The action never stopped in this 3-on-3 OT. The Panthers even put Jagr out on the ice, which he strayed away from in past occurrences due to the physical toll these five minutes take on every participating player. In the end of it all, the score was still tied and the game would go to a shootout.
- Jonathan Huberdeau – no goal
- Sidney Crosby – goal
- Vincent Trocheck – no goal
- Chris Kunitz – no goal
- Nick Bjugstad – goal
- Kris Letang – no goal
- Reilly Smith – no goal
- Phil Kessel – no goal
- Jussi Jokinen – goal
- Matt Cullen – no goal
Nick Bjugstad started off the scoring tonight with a much-needed goal. He also scored in the shootout. Al Montoya had an incredible night and was essentially the reason that the Panthers won tonight. He came just short of a shutout but is effort was more than enough to ensure him the first star tonight. Finally, Jussi Jokinen scored the game winning shootout goal against his former team to win the Panthers the game.
The Panthers will compete in the penultimate game of their home stand on Thursday, February 18th against the San Jose Sharks at 7:30 pm ET. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.