The Pittsburgh Penguins (34-15-9) were again generous with odd-man rushes. In a relatively even game, the Penguins couldn’t match the chances they gave to the Florida Panthers (39-13-5). A couple of bad pinches and missed assignments became Florida goals while the Penguins offense was concentrated in nine seconds in the second period.
The Penguins made it interesting in the final minutes. Head coach Mike Sullivan pulled starting goalie Tristan Jarry for the extra attacker with over two minutes remaining. Jeff Carter whipped a pass through the crease to Sidney Crosby (19) to pull the Penguins within one, 4-3.
Fans who remained for the final minutes were treated to a furious push, but it wasn’t enough.
On Tuesday night, the Atlantic Division-leading Florida beat the Penguins, 4-2, at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins lost two of three in their beasts-of-the-East gauntlet, which began with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday and continued in Carolina on Friday.
The Penguins remain in third place in the Metro Division, a comfortable eight points ahead of the Washington Capitals.
Florida raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period, though it could have been a bit worse as Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry turned away of pair of breakaways and a shorthanded break. Jarry stopped Sam Reinhart on two chances, but Reinhart converted an ugly swat.
“I didn’t like (net-front defense) at all in the first period. You know, both goals that they scored, for example. So we’ve got to defend that area with numbers. We’ve got to defend that area harder,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Midway through the first period, Reinhart charged one on three to the net. However, Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen flew past Reinhart without hitting the puck carrier or getting a piece of the puck. Reinhart (19) batted his own rebound out of the air–stick just beneath the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Florida created a traffic jam in front of the Penguins net worse than the Squirrel Hill tunnels on a Friday afternoon. Jarry didn’t see Aaron Ekblad’s (15) shot.
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t waste much time in the second period. They needed just nine seconds to erase the two-goal deficit.
Scorers initially credited Zach Aston-Reese with the first Penguins goal. He was near the crease, creating havoc. However, Bryan Rust (19) eventually got credit because a defenseman deflected his pass towards Aston-Reese into the net.
The Penguins’ good fortune didn’t last long. After a soft interference call on Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson, Florida lit the lamp for the go-ahead goal. Less than four minutes after the Penguins tied the game, Anthony Duclair (23) scored a power-play goal with a wrister from the slot.
“I know our team is capable of bringing a consistent game. When we bring it, and we’ve got a collective effort and we’re up in fives in all three zones. I think we’re hard to play against. And I thought there were moments in the game tonight when we were…,” head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t quite finish the thought before circling back to his unhappiness. “I didn’t like our first period at all. You know, I thought in the second and third period, we competed hard and there was more that was more detail to our game. And as a result, we made it a hockey game. The takeaway is we’ve got to make sure we’re ready from the drop in the puck.”
Carter Verhaeghe scored the game-winner after Kris Letang was caught on a pinch, and Jake Guentzel couldn’t keep the puck in the offensive zone. Verhaeghe finished the two-on-one for the GWG.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had seven of the nine scoring chances in the second period and took 22 of the 29 shot attempts, yet each team had just one high-danger chance, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Jarry stopped 26 of 29 before being pulled for the extra attacker. Bobrovsky nailed down 32 of 35.