Sunrise, FL – Against an opponent who hasn’t lost a game since November, the Florida Panthers had the advantage early on but couldn’t contain the Pittsburgh Penguins, who scored three unanswered goals mainly by capitalizing on the Panthers mistakes.
Despite an initial solid outing on offense, Pittsburgh proved themselves the better attackers and scored three straight goals as well as an empty netter to edge out the Panthers 4-2.
Frosty Very Warm Scene
Florida has continued to struggle with building momentum in the span of multiple games. Entering the matchup at the FLA Live Arena, the Panthers had a 13-12-4 record, a mixed bag of results in which the Cats have not won more than three games in a row, and have lost three straight twice so far. In the past six games for Florida, they’ve won and lost three times.
That said, the Panthers are coming off one of their most successful wins so far, earning a 4-0 shutout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets this past Tuesday. 22 saves by Sergei Bobrovsky and goals scored by four different players were too much for Columbus to handle, snapping a two-game winning streak on their end.
On the other side of the ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins came in red hot off the heels of six straight wins. They scored more than four goals in four of those games and limited their opponent’s offense to 11 total goals during that stretch. Some of the teams they knocked off include the Las Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues, and Buffalo Sabres.
With a 17-8-4 record, the Penguins had momentum to spare, but the Panthers have fared well against some of the hottest teams in the NHL, with wins under their belt against the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, and Seattle Kraken.
Florida Cools off Pittsburgh
It was Pittsburgh who began the game aggressively on offense with three shots within the first minute but to no avail thanks to Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky. Pittsburgh won the majority of their faceoffs but couldn’t get by Florida’s defense early on.
Five minutes in, the Panthers got a break thanks to Ryan Lomberg, who capitalized on a ricochet shot off of Pittsburgh’s goalie Tristan Jarry, and slapped the puck in for the first goal of the game.
FIRE IT UP ‼️ pic.twitter.com/rSHBvsNJ9O— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) December 16, 2022
Pittsburgh was the dominant team on faceoffs and even converted multiple takeaways, but they couldn’t get clear shots on the net. The Panthers bulked up and didn’t allow much action, even when center Eric Staal was hit with a penalty for removing a Pittsburgh player’s helmet.
After some time, the horn rang and the Panthers held on to an early 1-0 lead.
The Penguins March Onward
From the second period onward, the Cats had momentum but couldn’t cash it in for goals. Despite seven shots on goal within the first three minutes, the Penguins defense didn’t let the lead extend.
The Panthers got a break when Penguins defenseman Jan Rutta was called for a hooking penalty. However, less than a minute after play ensured, right-wing Bryan Rust broke away with the puck, passed it to defenseman Kris Letang, who beat Bobrovsky on the 1v1 and tied the game up, a rare short-handed goal given up by Florida.
YOU LOVE TO SEE A SHORTHANDED GAME-TYING GOAL 💛 pic.twitter.com/BO9CeQgfOb— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 16, 2022
The sloppy play by both teams continued until another penalty was called- this time on Panthers Carter Verhaeghe for tripping. 12 minutes in, Pittsburgh took advantage and upped their pressure on offense, leading to another goal scored by left-wing Jake Guentzel, giving the Penguins a lead they wouldn’t give up.
With seven unsuccessful shots on goal for the next eight minutes, Florida couldn’t find an answer to Jarry and went into the third period with a deficit, something that has proven to be a nightmare for the Panthers this season, statistically.
A Cold Shoulder for Florida
The Panthers had their opportunities in the third period, but Pittsburgh’s takeaways and an inability to clear shots kept Florida behind on the scoreboard.
After eight minutes, another penalty was given out to the Panthers and the Penguins once again took advantage. A slapshot by Sidney Crosby bounced off the knee of Evgeni Malkin and fell into the net, adding an insurance goal to Pittsburgh but injuring Malkin in the process.
Not the way we wanted to score. pic.twitter.com/h4ciZo5fs0— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 16, 2022
Panthers center Sam Reinhart responded two minutes later, converting a pass by Verhaeghe and striking the left side of the net, to keep Florida in the game with not much time left.
Florida’s power play woes continued after an interference penalty on Pittsburgh wasn’t capitalized on. With two minutes remaining, Bobrovsky was pulled for the extra skater in an effort to tie the game up, but a breakaway by left-wing Jake Guentzel netted the empty netter for the Penguins as they cruised to a 4-2 win.
Waddling to the Statistics (& What’s Next)
Despite Florida’s consistent ability to dominate the shot statistics at home, it was Pittsburgh who edged out the Panthers in this category, with 39 shots compared to 34. The Penguins also won more faceoffs, blocked more shots, earned more takeaways, and capitalized on the power play opportunities, unlike the Panthers.
Both Stall and Verhaeghe were the only Panthers who recorded an assist on the night. Aleksander Barkov was quiet the whole game, recording no goals or assists. Bobrovsky, despite giving up three goals, still recorded 35 saves, though only three came from power plays.
"For a lot of the game, the effort was there. We played the right way for the majority of the game, but without the win, we obviously still got work to do."— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) December 16, 2022
Ryan Lomberg meets with the media following tonight's loss. @FlaPanthers | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/nnIctLm9of
The loss drops Florida’s record to 14-13-4, though they remain in fifth place in the Atlantic Division standings, behind the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins.
Florida will head on the road for an east coast trip against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, December 17th, as well as the Boston Bruins on Monday, December 19th. They’ll then head back home for a rematch against New Jersey on Wednesday, December 21st at 7 PM.
Photo Penguins PR
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