Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 Florida Panthers: Captain Crosby Saves the Day

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Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 Florida Panthers: Captain Crosby Saves the Day

Sidney Crosby has done more in the first 300 games in the NHL than most do in their careers. The list of achievements just goes on and on.

But still in the first 299, there is something that he has never done - score shorthanded.

That changed on Friday night against the Florida Panthers. And on a day where nobody else in Black and Vegas Gold seemed to have their best stuff, the Captain came to the rescue once again.

Almost immediately labelled a "trap" game by the coaching staff, the Panthers and Steve Reinprecht played the role perfectly. They caught the Penguins napping at the beginning of the game and got their powerplay to work early. The Panther forecheck was greatly aided by a number of Penguin giveaways in the defensive zone.

Reinprecht buried some garbage on the man advantage after Craig Adams failed to get the puck out of the zone and Jay McKee turned the puck over in front of the cage.

Then only a few minutes later, the Panthers buzzed around in the Penguin zone again, with the Penguin defenders looking like gargoyals frozen in time. Panther forwards had all the open ice in the world to work with, and Reinprecht bagged his second of the period off a ricochet.

Groans of agony from the Mellon Arena crowd, who could almost see which way this game was headed.

Chris Kunitz attempted to snap the Penguins out of the horrible lull by fighting defenseman Keith Ballard old-school style. You know, forget the helmets.

The Penguins generated a few solid chances, but nothing of much value. Many times, they had to resort to shots from the perimeter that were painlessly gloved out of the air by netminder Tomas Vokoun, who always seems to play his best against the Penguins.

Finally building some momentum in the third, Crosby fired home a powerplay goal from a few yards to the left of Vokoun. After a shanked pass by Evgeni Malkin at the point, he immediately redeemed himself with a diving play to keep the puck in.

But just when everything is going the local way, the Penguins get nailed with an unnecessary interference call that puts the Panthers up a man with four minutes left.

Never fear, Sidney Crosby is here. Killing penalties too.

Disco Dan put the two-headed monster out on the PK together and somehow found a way to produce an odd man rush. Malkin flies down the side, draws three men to him behind the net, leaving Crosby wide open in front of the net to bury his first career short-handed goal.

The two sides play some bonus hockey and head to a shootout. We all know where this is going. Crosby scores in the shootout (again, for the third time in three tries).

Two more points for the Penguins and they win their seventh straight game, thanks to Mr. 300.

 

Goaltender

B. Johnson: 7.5 . Another solid start in relief of Fleury. Was hung out to dry by his defense on the two Panther goals, but shut everything down after that. Stopped a breakaway, a three-on-one, and all three Panthers in the shootout.

 

Defense

Eaton: 5.5 . Played 22 minutes of uneventful ice time. Could have jumped into the attack more than he did.

Goligoski: 6 . Had a nice game defensively and set up Crosby's powerplay goal with a brilliant cross-ice pass. But he was clearly not comfortable running the point, as he absolutely refused to pull the trigger.

Letang: 6 . Not his finest performance either. Gave the puck away a few times too many, especially trying to make a fancy play in the offensive zone.

McKee: 5.5 . Blocked a few shots and improved as the game went on. Should have received a primary assist on Reinprecht's first goal. Almost tried to be too aggressive late in the game and it nearly cost the Penguins.

Orpik: 5 . Went down far too early, trying to block Nathan Horton's shot, which led directly to the second Panther goal. Also took a pointless penalty with four minutes remaining that could have killed the Penguins comeback. Tried to make up for his mistakes with hitting, and succeeded to a minor degree.

Skoula: 6 . Low risk, low reward style of hockey. Made no plays worth remembering, but was also solid defensively and didn't give up on any pucks. Showed that he is committed to doing what it takes, blocking his fair share of shots.

 

Forwards

Adams: 5 . Chose the fancy play over the easy one on the penalty kill and it backfired into a Panther goal. Improved a fraction as the game went on but never seemed to have his best stuff.

Bourque: 6.5 . A game-time decision to play, he was one of the few who came prepared to go right off the start. Saw a decent chunk of time alongside Malkin and Fedotenko.

Cooke: 6 . Easily the Penguins best penalty killer, apart from Brent Johnson. Consistently took the body any chance he had.

Crosby: 9.5 . Scored on the powerplay, shorthanded, and in the shootout. Won 21 faceoffs. Played nearly 26 minutes of entirely deserved ice time and was quite honestly the only reason why the Penguins walked away with two points.

Dupuis: 4.5 . Lost a fair amount of time to Chris Bourque. Had a great opportunity on a semi-breakaway, but made an utter mess of his only chance to shine.

Fedotenko: 5.5 . Dan Bylsma's experiment with him at the point on the second powerplay lasted about 30 seconds. Needed to shoot the puck on a few different occasions and just didn't.

Guerin: 6 . Appeared to have a goal in the third period, as he jammed the puck past Vokoun. But the score was wiped out immediately due to an apparent hand-pass by Crosby. Also got to try his luck in the shootout, although he was unsuccessful.

Kennedy: 6.5 . Had the Mellon Arena faithful holding their breath as he dashed down the left side of Vokoun and nearly had him beat with a beautiful curl-and-drag move. Why he continues to see no powerplay time is beyond much reasoning, as he remains one of the Penguins best shooting options.

Kunitz: 7 . Gave everything he had to get the team back into the game. Started by fighting Ballard and drove to the net every chance he had. Probably should have scored.

Malkin: 6.5 . Well, at least he tried. Couldn't seem to hit the net for his life in the second period, and also made a number of ill-advised passes. But his smart play produced both of Crosby's goals.

Rupp: 5 . Saw almost no action, for whatever reason.

Staal: 6 . Denied at the net mouth on an incredible save by Vokoun, who seemed to read his mind. Showed no fear in blocking a slapshot from heavy-hitter Bryan McCabe. Oddly went to the locker room halfway through the second period, but returned for the third.

 

Well, the Penguins faced some adversity from a Florida Panthers bunch that needed a solid showing after a dismal performance against the Sabres. But thanks to the leadership of Crosby, the Penguins clawed their way back to keep the streak alive.

The Penguins have no time off, as they hit the ice again tomorrow at 7:30 to face the division rival New Jersey Devils. Marc-Andre Fleury will be back in net as scheduled.

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