Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Panthers can't stand the cold in Pittsburgh!

By: MF,

Tonight is the second of back-to-back games for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they host the Florida Panthers at Consol Energy Center! The Penguins are coming off a well needed win against the St. Louis Blues. Last night the team achieved a 4-2 win over the Blues and looked better than they have in the last few games. However, that doesn't mean the trouble they have been experiencing is over. They have to show consistency and that will come into play tonight. The Penguins have to put a few wins together and this weekend is the perfect opportunity. They will have to battle a Panthers team, which suffered a 4-1 loss, last night, to the Ottawa Senators. The Panthers will be hunger and eager to turn their fortunes around tonight. The Penguins have to stay focused and keep working for a full 60 minutes. They can't let the Panthers breathe for one minute or they could regret it later.

Going into this contest, the Penguins have a 14-2-3 record against the Atlantic Division this season. Their 14 wins have them ranked first in the National Hockey League (NHL) in this category. This season they also have a 20-3-1 record when their power play scores a goal. Lately, their power play hasn't been a factor, but last night changed that. Their power play finally put on in the net, but we will see they can stay consistent tonight. Their power play is big when they are home. The Penguins have gone 11-2 when their power play scores at home. They have a 20.3% success rate, which is eighth in the NHL. Last night they put Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, and Patric Hornqvist on their first power play unit. They worked well together, put shots on net, and were able to score...finally. Aside from the firepower of Crosby and Malkin, the power play is strong at the blue line. That is where the plays start and Letang is the man responsible for many of the Penguins power play goals. He has 19 power play assists, which is first among the team and fourth in the NHL. Not bad for a defender, but this is Letang we are talking about. 

As for their penalty kill, it has been firing on all cylinders. A large part of their success killing off penalties is goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury. He has a .919 save percentage when the team is shorthanded. Plus while shorthanded, he has faced 258 shots, which is most in the NHL. 

Now let's talk about the offense of the Penguins, which was able to put a few on the scoreboard last night. They have tons of talented guys, but it has been a problem getting them on the score sheet. Last night they were able to do just that. Blake Comeau notched two goals and tied a career high with three points against the Blues, last night. Comeau is now tied with Malkin at 14 for the most even-strength goal leaders among the Penguins. A key factor is getting the upper hand in the offensive zone is winning face-offs. Maxim Lapierre has a 58.8 faceoff win percentage over the last three games.

The key to a successful game is defense and the Penguins have a very good one. This is beside the talent of Letang or Paul Martin. They have to rely on the rest of the pairings. For example, Simon Despres has assisted in back-to-back games, which is the fourth time in his career. Also, Derrick Pouliot has two points (one goal and one assist) in his two career games against the Panthers. The Penguins' defense is known for their offensive talents and look for them to engage in plays tonight. Defense is nothing without a great goaltender to back everyone up. For the Penguins that man is Fleury and my has he held down the fort. He has been the factor in the Penguins staying in the game. His last six starts, he is 3-2-1, with a 1.00 goals against average, a .963 save percentage and has had two shutouts. Playing a solid and smart game will benefit this netminder. In addition, the Penguins can't keep relying on him so heavily. They have to take on some of the weight, so they don't tire out their goalie.

Tonight will be a big game for the Penguins and a test to see if they can bring consistency to their game! Lets Go Pens!

The Pens lineup is as follows:

Perron, Crosby, Hornqvist
Kunitz, Geno, Comeau
Spaling, Sutter, Bennett
Sill, Lapierre, Downie

Martin, Letang
Pouliot, Bortuzzo
Scuderi, Despres

Fleury in the net!

Play By Play
PENS 5 Panthers 1

3rd Period

2:20- Perron and Ekblad fight in front of the net and behind even when the puck is at the other end. The refs just watches and no penalties.

3:13- Nice spinning move by Letang, on the boards, to get the puck up the ice.

5:10- Perron rings a shot off the crossbar!

7:37- Upshall Scores. Trocheck wins an offensive zone face-off and goes forward. He snaps a quick pass to Upshall at the side of the net. He puts it in. 5-1 Pens.

7:39- Away from the offensive explosion this period, Despres has had a solid game and been laying huge hits.

10:54- MALKIN SCORES AGAIN! Sill puts the puck around the boards and Malkin battles for the puck! He stick handles to the front and puts it up high! 5-0 Pens!

11:53- Successful kill by the Pens. Fleury with a huge save at the end.

13:53- Lapierre is called for slashing and the Pens will go down a man.  

16:07- HORNQVIST SCORES ON THE POWER PLAY! Crosby does his fancy work and the puck gets to Hornqvist in front! Montoya with the first save, but Hornqvist puts the rebound up high! 4-0 Pens!

17:56- Pens power play time as Petrovic goes for high sticking.

19:41- MARTIN SCORES! Crosby enters the zone, stops up, and finds Martin coming in late! Martin roofs one over the glove shoulder of Montoya! 3-0 Pens!

20:00- The Pens are back after a short break and ready for the third period! They have to pressure the Panthers and keep them pinned in their own zone! Lets Go Pens!

2nd Period
0:00- Second period ends and the Pens extend their lead to 2-0 over the Panthers! The Pens better thank Fleury for the chance to go up in this game and not having to battle back for the lead!

0:26- MALKIN SCORES! Jokinen tips it back and it goes to Malkin who comes flying into the offensive zone! He catches the defense flat footed! Malkin puts it five hole! 2-0 Pens!

1:31- The Pens haven't taken the shot chances away from the Panthers. It has been a shooting gallery for them.

4:13- Perron finds Malkin with a step up on the Panthers defense. Malkin snaps one, which is saved by Montoya.

5:26- Only five shots for the Pens in this period, not their best. They are relying heavily on Fleury and Panthers have the control. Time to get back into this one Pens!

7:17- The Pens are caught running around in their own zone. Fleury comes up with a huge save and is just unreal. Panthers have 25 shots now.

10:15- The Pens power play is over. They had some trouble with turnovers in the beginning, but at the end kept the puck in the zone.

12:15- Campbell trips up Hornqvist and the Pens will get a power play opportunity.

14:23- The Panthers have the control and the Pens have turned over the puck a few times. They need to stay focused as the Panthers are a deadly team.

17:23- Mark that down as another successful penalty kill. Fleury holding down the fort.

19:23- Perron will now have a seat in the sin bin for holding of the stick. The Pens will have to kill off another Panthers power play.

20:00- Both teams are back and ready to start the second period! The Pens need to keep up the speed and pressure, but limit the shots by the Panthers! Lets Go Pens!

1st Period
0:00- First period horn sounds and the Pens emerge with the 1-0 lead over the Panthers!

1:49- Shots are 14-8 in favor the Panthers, but I don't think that will last. Fleury has been sharp.

3:09- The Pens are successful with the kill and Despres is set free.

4:25- Sutter comes flying down the wing and fires a sneaky shot. Montoya is just able to make the pad save.

5:09- Now it will be the Panthers turn on the power play as Despres takes a seat for high sticking.

5:45- The Pens power play doesn't score, but it had a few solid chances and got shots on the net.

6:45- Crosby rips a backhander just wide in front!

7:41- The first power play of the game will belong to the Pens as Bortuzzo draws a holding penalty on Trocheck.

8:35- Huberdeau gets to the front, but Fleury brings out the poke check. Then makes a glove/pad save through a screened shot. He looses his stick and glove, but keeps making the saves. The Flower is tuned into this one.

10:42- HORNQVIST SCORES! Letang with a massive forecheck to pressure Kulikov and he coughs up the puck! Letang puts the puck in the blue paint and Hornqvist jams it through the five hole of Montoya! 1-0 Pens!

12:02- Fleury holds down the pad to make a save on a up front chance.

15:13- Crosby is flying as he flies past Ekblad once again!

16:14- Crosby blows past Ekblad and wrist a hard shot, but Montoya gloves it.

17:36- Sutter feeds to Sill who just misses.

20:00- It's hockey night in Pittsburgh! The Pens take on the Panthers! Lets Go Pens!

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