No excuses for this one. None. Not injuries. Nothing.
Friday night, the Florida Panthers just simply got out-everything’d by a desperate Pittsburgh Penguins team in a 4-1 loss at the Bank Atlantic Center. The Pens, who came into the game outside of the top eight in the East and losers of their last six, came flying out of their dressing room, dominating the first period by launching 18 hunks of rubber at netminder Scott Clemmensen while only allowing six at Marc-Andre Fleury. Despite that, the Panthers had the chance to take the early as Tomas Fleischmann skated in alone on Fleury, but his shot went off the heel of his stick and ended up wide of the net.
Despite a strong first period between the pipes, it would be a Clemmensen mistake in the second that would open the scoring for Pittsburgh. A misplay of the puck behind his cage put the puck on the stick of Matt Cooke, who easily passed it to Steve Sullivan to bury in the open cage. It was an unfortunate play for Clemmensen, who at that point, was the only (well, that and his goalposts) that the Panthers weren’t already facing a two or three goal deficit. But it was a bit of bad luck at the end of the second that would give the Pens their second goal. After stopping an Evgeni Malkin slapper on a 2-on-1 rush, Malkin backhanded the rebound off of Clemmensen and into the net to make it 2-0 with :35 left in the period.
As bad as the late-period goal made things, Tyler Kennedy’s goal just :36 into the third put the dagger into the heart of this game for the Panthers. Michal Repik’s goal would help this one look a little bit better on the scoreboard but James Neal’s goal with under five to play ended a dominating Pittsburgh effort.
While the Panthers were losing this game, the Washington Capitals were beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in the capital and closing the Panthers division lead to only two points with the Caps having a game in hand. That’s one of the reasons this effort from the Panthers is so puzzling.
Gone is the big division cushion the team enjoyed in December when the Capitals were struggling. Now, they’ve seem to have found their game under new coach Dale Hunter and have been steadily climbing up the standings so the Cats know the pressure to get points is on in a big way. You knew the Pens would come out with a ton of energy in this game, desperate for a win and they did. Perplexing that the Panthers didn’t match it after having a few days off to recharge their batteries and get a little bit healthier. And things aren’t going to get any easier as the big, bad, defending Cup Champion Boston Bruins come to town on Monday for the first of two visits to Sunrise this year. The last time these two teams played, the Bruins destroyed the Cats 8-0 heading into the holiday break so, on the surface, this doesn’t look like the best opponent to rebound against so they’ll have to bring their A+ game and effort.
Want to find out who the captain should be? The next two weeks will show you.
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Tags: Bank Atlantic Center Boston Bruins Evgeni Malkin Florida Panthers James Neal Marc Andre Fleury Michal Repik Pittsburgh Penguins Scott Clemmensen Steve Sullivan Tampa Bay Lightning Tomas Fleischmann Tyler Kennedy Washington Capitals