The Penguins returned home to PPG Paints Arena Saturday night, as they faced off against the Florida Panthers.
From the drop of the puck the Panthers had plenty of early chances, out-shooting the Pens and consistently controlling play. Goalie Matt Murray stayed strong, stopping all shots that came his way early on.
The Pens went on the power play a little over five minutes into the first period. They took full advantage, keeping the puck in the offensive zone for almost the entire time before Sidney Crosby (assisted by Phil Kessel and Kris Letang) tipped it in with 26 seconds remaining on the man advantage.
That early lead gave the Pens full control for a good portion of the period. They killed off a penalty with ease when defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was called for slashing at 7:57 of the first.
The Panthers had some good chances late in the period, but Murray continued to shut the door as the Pens took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Much like the first, the second period began with the Panthers creating quality scoring chances. They almost had a for sure goal, but left winger Jamie McGinn couldn’t shovel it into a wide-open net.
However, a Penguins’ turnover led to the Panthers’ first goal of the game. Left winger Jonathan Huberdeau (unassisted) scored from the slot to tie the game up with 14:35 left in the second.
The Pens challenged the play for goalie interference, but it was determined there wasn’t any and they lost their timeout as a result.
After Crosby was called for tripping, it looked as if the Panthers were set to take control. But the Pens had other ideas, as center Greg McKegg (assisted by Tom Kuhnhackl) scored a shorthanded goal to give the Pens a 2-1 lead.
Another penalty was called on left winger Carl Hagelin, and the Panthers took advantage. Huberdeau (assisted by Evgenii Dadonov) scored on the powerplay to once again tie the game up at 2 a piece.
The teams then traded chances at both ends of the ice, both goalies staying alert to make great saves. The Pens broke through again as right winger Patric Hornqvist (assisted by Olli Maatta and Bryan Rust) crashed the net to give his team the lead 3-2 with a little over six minutes left in the period.
Just like the Pens earlier, the Panthers tried to challenge the play for goalie interference. They too shared the same fate, with the referee determining that there was no interference and the goal stood.
Each team traded a few more chances before the second period ended, the Pens still up 3-2.
The third period started with the Pens adding to their lead. Crosby (assisted by Letang and Conor Sheary) had a beautiful deflection, his second goal of the night, to increase the lead to 4-2.
The Panthers answered back a little less than seven minutes into the third. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad (assisted by Vincent Trocheck and McGinn) rocketed a slapshot past the shoulder of Murray to cut the Pens’ lead to one.
Panthers’ goalie James Reimer made a couple of amazing diving saves on Sheary and Jake Guenztel to keep his team in it.
The end of the game saw the Panthers throw everything they had at the Pens to try and tie the game. They pulled their goalie for an extra attacker and kept the puck in the Pens’ zone for the final minute of the game, putting shot after shot on net. But the Pens held on to get the 4-3 victory.
Even after their loss against Tampa, the Pens had a lot of aspects about their game that they were pleased with. Sticking to their game paid off, holding off the resilient Panthers and continuing to play their style of hockey.
Murray was once again spectacular in net, making great saves and keeping his team ahead. Crosby continued to play at a high level, as well as Letang who had two assists on the night.
The Pens travel to New York City, where they play the New York Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.