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Penguins’ Power Play Scores, Then Short-Circuits in 3-2 Shootout Loss



The Pittsburgh Penguins tried something radically different Friday night: They scored a power-play goal.

On their first chance of the evening, no less.

Seemed like a good idea at the time, but the Penguins apparently didn’t agree, because they failed to take advantage of seven subsequent chances with the man-advantage.

Which is the most obvious reason Florida beat them, 3-2, in a shootout at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins’ third consecutive loss.

They were able to salvage a point when Evgeni Malkin scored with the goalie pulled in the final minute of the third period.

In the the shootout, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart scored for the Panthers, while Jake Guentzel got one for the Penguins. Sidney Crosby and Rickard Rakell were denied by Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, while Alex Nedeljkovic stopped Anton Lundell.

The Penguins (21-17-7) are six points behind Detroit, which holds the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins have three games-in-hand on the Red Wings.

The game got off to a promising start for the Penguins when Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe was assessed a minor for holding Kris Letang just 22 seconds into the opening period.

The Penguins’ power play, which had been 0-for-14 in the previous five games, got off to a lackluster start, but still gave them a short-lived lead when Guentzel set up at the right side of the crease and put in a feed from Bryan Rust, who was in the left circle.

Erik Karlsson got the second assist on the goal, Guentzel’s 21st, to extend his points streak to 10 games. That’s three shy of the Penguins’ record for a defenseman, set by Paul Coffey in 1990.

The Panthers countered with a man-advantage goal of their own at 4:52, as former Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues backhanded an Oliver Ekman-Larsson rebound past Nedeljkovic. The goal came 72 seconds after Marcus Pettersson was called for holding Barkov.

Ryan Lomberg of the Panthers was sent off for interfering with Crosby at 4:31 of the second period, but the Penguins were unable to capitalize on that chance with the extra man. Florida actually had the best scoring chance during those two minutes, as defenseman Aaron Ekblad put a shot off the crossbar behind Nedeljkovic.

The game hit a potential pivot point midway through the second, when Letang picked up one minor for tripping and another for interference at 9:48.

The interference penalty, which was handed out after Letang knocked Barkov into the boards with an innocuous-looking nudge from his left shoulder, initially was called as a major, but was reduced to a two-minute infraction after a video review.

Mike Sullivan described it as “incidental contact” and said he did not believe that incident merited a penalty.

Barkov did not have the puck and did not appear to be ready to absorb even mild contact. Letang said after the game that he believes his stick or skate might have clipped Barkov’s skate.

The first of Letang’s penalties expired one second before Reinhart put the Panthers in front, 2-1, by driving a shot past Nedeljkovic from above the right hash mark at 11:49.

The goal was Reinhart’s 36th, a team-record tying 19 of which have come on the power play.

The Penguins were visibly upset with the calls that led to that goal, and the Panthers weren’t pleased with a few that came shortly thereafter.

Kevin Stenlund was called for hooking at 12:55 and, while Florida was killing that one, Sam Bennett got minors for cross-checking Letang and unsportsmanlike conduct at 14:33.

That gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 for 22 seconds and an extended opportunity with the extra man, but they were unable to manufacture the tying goal.

Florida clearly was targeting Letang any time it got a chance, and Anton Lundell was assessed a roughing minor for punching him in the face at 18:54.

The Penguins again failed to capitalize on the man-advantage.

The same happened when Bennett was called for interference at 5:56 of the third, dropping the Penguins to 1-for-7 for the game.

Karlsson and Malkin were removed from the No. 1 unit when Ekblad was penalized for hooking at 14:35, with Letang and Valtteri Puustinen taking their spots, but the Penguins again could not convert.

Ironically enough, the Penguins forced overtime by scoring when they had an extra skater — not because they had a man-advantage, but because Nedeljkovic had been replaced by a sixth attacker.

Malkin got the goal, throwing in a shot from along the goal line to the right of the net with 41.5 seconds left in regulation for his 16th. Crosby and Rust got assists.

Nedeljkovic came through with the biggest save at either end in overtime, as he poke-checked the puck away from Florida defenseman Brandon Montour, who had a breakaway.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will play their final game before the all-star break Saturday at 7:08 p.m. against Montreal at PPG Paints Arena.