The Panthers went toe-to-toe with the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night and hardly looked out of place.
In years past, the Penguins have taken it to the Panthers, especially in Pittsburgh, but despite falling 4-3 in regulation, the Panthers stood their ground under the direction of new head coach Bob Boughner.
The Panthers fired 46 shots towards goaltender Matt Murray, and two of them went into the net off the stick of Jonathan Huberdeau.
Sidney Crosby got the Penguins on the board with a redirection at the side of the net on the power play 6:46 into the 1st period and Huberdeau tied the game early in the 2nd period with a shot from the slot that found its way past a sliding Murray.
A rare misplay on the power play by Aleksander Barkov at the Panthers’ blue-line allowed Tom Kuhnhackl to speed in on James Reimer.
The rebound was left sitting at the top of the crease for Greg McKegg – who played in 46 games over the last 2 seasons for the Panthers – to pick up and back-hand into the top shelf, restoring the Penguins’ 2-1 lead.
Huberdeau notched his second goal of the game and third of the season on the power play after a Keith Yandle point shot rebounded into the low slot for a tap-in.
With a multi-point effort tonight, the 23-year old extended his season-long point streak to 4 games with a total of 3 goals and 2 assists.
Evgenii Dadonov assisted on both goals by Huberdeau, and he also has 5 points in 4 games.
“It’s a tough game,” said Huberdeau. “They’re a good team, especially at home, but I thought our 3rd period we played well. We got a lot of chances, missed some chances at the end too but I think it could’ve gone either way.”
The Penguins scored the next two goals of the game, one by Patric Hornqvist and the other off another redirection by Crosby that snuck through Reimer two minutes into the 3rd.
Aaron Ekblad got the Panthers back within one by one-timing a feed from Vincent Trocheck into the top shelf for the 100th career NHL point, and Reimer, who finished with 29 saves, kept his team in it with an incredible diving save.
He went to the bench for the extra attacker with 1:26 left in the final frame, and the Panthers spent all of it in the offensive zone. A huge flurry, which included an Ekblad point shot that went off the post, almost resulted in a goal, but it was too late as the final buzzer sounded.
The special teams proved to be the difference, especially for the Panthers, in the loss. They had five power play opportunities but scored just once and allowed a shorthanded goal in the 2nd, moving them to 3-for-18 on the power play to start the season.
The Penguins pressured the puck carrier and forced the Panthers to make quick decisions in the offensive zone.
“I thought we did some good things, I thought we played a decent road game,” said head coach Bob Boughner. “It’s a tough building, as we know, against a good team. It doesn’t take a lot for them to capitalize and I thought we opened it up a little too much at times.”
For game 5, the Panthers will head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers for the first time this season. Denis Malgin, who was loaned to the Panthers’ AHL affiliate on Friday, is expected to meet the team for that game on Tuesday, although it’s unclear if he’ll actually suit up.
- Owen Tippett and Mackenzie Weegar were scratched for the fourth consecutive game.
- Colton Sceviour left the game late in the 3rd after taking a high elbow to the head from Patric Hornqvist.