The Panthers really needed a win.
Instead, they got a shower of hats, a zero in the goals column, and another loss added to their pedestrian record.
Since the Panthers basically having to win out the remaining 12 games of the season, things weren’t going to be easy as they traveled to PPG Paints Arena to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to wrap up a 3-game road trip.
With the way things have gone over the past month, Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Penguins fit right in.
It brings their record to 3-9-1 since going on a 5-game win streak which put them right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Sidney Crosby recorded his 10th career hat-trick to send the Panthers off with their 6th loss in their last 8 games. James Reimer, in his 9th straight appearance, made 22 saves on 26 shots as he was left out to dry with the Penguins coming in waves for most of the afternoon.
The maximum number of points the Panthers can reach is 95 – if they win the rest of their games, that is – meaning even the mathematical possibility of making the playoffs is nearly non-existent.
Things were fairly quiet to start the game until Patric Hornqvist opened the scoring with 3:46 remaining in the 1st period. Phil Kessel flipped the puck over the Panthers’ net where Hornqvist where there to bat it perfectly out of the air and past Reimer.
A tight 1-0 game through the late stages of the 2nd period, Sidney Crosby scored twice in a span of a minute and 52 seconds to extend the Penguins’ lead to 3-0 and regain the NHL scoring lead. The first was a hard wrist shot that whizzed by Reimer on the short side, and it was followed up with a backhander from the low slot after a quick transition into the offensive zone by the Penguins.
Crosby completed the hat-trick 5:00 into the 3rd on a wide open chance created by a feed from the goal line to make it a 4-0 lead in favor of the Penguins, and that would be enough for them to skate off with a win over the Panthers.
Marc-Andre Fleury, starting in place of number-1 goaltender Matt Murray, stopped all 28 shots thrown towards him by the Panthers en route to his first shutout of the season.
Florida will return home to face the Hurricanes on Tuesday as they kick off a 3-game home stand.