Just six days ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad from the Florida Panthers. Thursday night, the Penguins faced their former teammates, Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan while Florida did the same. The Penguins which had lost two straight made several changes to the lineup and defensive pairings but scored only one 5v5 goal. Florida defenseman Mike Matheson deflected a shot past Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith and Florida beat the Penguins 3-2 in overtime.
The Penguins have lost three in a row.
The Penguins start with new combinations was not dynamic. Or even close. Bjugstad was elevated from third line center to play on Sidney Crosby’s right wing. The Penguins also broke up their top defensive pairing by placing Brian Dumoulin with Jack Johnson and Marcus Pettersson with Kris Letang.
Despite advanced stats which said the Penguins had the advantage in the first period, eye tests certainly didn’t agree. Just over 90 seconds into the game, former Penguins center-and LW Riley Sheahan had a goal waived off. Officials ruled Sheahan pushed DeSmith and his pads back into the net. However, the call was made after a lengthy review.
“They were able to get out of their zone a little easier than we’d like. We’d like to put a little more pressure on them and hold on to pucks,” said Crosby.
The Penguins new fangled defensive pairings hit a snag in the first period, too. Three minutes into the first period, Petterson earned a trip to the penalty box for interference.
Florida converted the power play when Evgeni Dadonov (19) chipped a backhand past Casey DeSmith. Former Penguins center Derick Brassard earned an assist.
McCann burned his former team, as well. Later in the second period, McCann buried a shorthanded goal on a 2-on-1 with Bryan Rust. McCann (9) perhaps used some inside knowledge and snapped a wrist shot to the stick side on Florida goalie Roberto Luongo.
“I thought he had a strong game. He can skate. He was really good on the penalty kill. It was a huge goal for us, shorthanded,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “I thought his line was better 5v5. I think he’s getting more comfortable with how we’re trying to play. He’s getting better with each game.”
After being bounced around in the first period, the Penguins were the aggressors in the second period. After squandering a 5-on-3 in the opening minute of the second period, the Penguins controlled the puck and territory. However, Florida scored a late goal to retake the lead.
“It was definitely frustrating. I felt like we played a team game. We showed we could dominate them. It’s frustrating. We know we can play better,” said McCann who also admitted he would have traded the goal for a win.
After Pettersson failed to clear the zone, Florida pounced on the Penguins net. Colton Sceviour (4)–whose head broke Zach Aston-Reese’s hand a few weeks ago during a fight–easily finished with a little wrister from about 10 feet away.
The Penguins shuffled the lines again for the third period as Bjugstad was off Sidney Crosby’s line in favor of trusty stand-by Bryan Rust. The move had some moderate success as the line helped Pettersson score his first goal as a Penguin.
In the middle of the final period, the Penguins crashed the net and Pettersson (1) fired a wrist shot from the point.
However, the Penguins could not score again. With under one minute remaining in overtime, Matheson (5) deflected the puck past DeSmith.
Florida fired a ton of shots toward DeSmith, who stopped 39 of 42. Luongo also saw 31 shots.
Before the game, the Penguins updated the status of their injured players. Evgeni Malkin is skating and close to returning. Justin Schultz is still getting in game shape and is day-to-day, and Zach Aston-Reese is a little further away.
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