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Friday, December 9, 2016

Game Recap: Fast Start Buries Florida 5-1

The Penguins have been using big 3rd periods to come back and bury their opposition as of late. This time against Florida, they decided to pour it on at the start instead. Sidney Crosby kicked things off with his league-leading 18th goal of the season, Conor Sheary had a goal and an assist, Scott Wilson chipped in a pair of assists of his own and the Pens poured on another 2 goals in the 3rd period for old time's sake as they crushed the Panthers 5-1 in Florida.

Pittsburgh got off to a fast start, and as it has been all season it was the captain leading the way. Just 3 minutes in, Sidney Crosby wristed a shot from the top of the right circle. Roberto Luongo didn't see it coming as Patric Hornqvist was out front blocking his view, and just like that it was 1-0 Pens. Seconds later, Evgeni Malkin would get sent off to the penalty box after taking a hooking penalty against Aaron Ekblad, and Florida would go on the power play with a chance to pull even. But Reilly Smith would get whistled for a penalty himself midway through the Panther power play for holding Carl Hagelin, sending the action to 4-on-4 until Malkin got out of the box.

The Penguins managed to take advantage of the open ice, as Crosby shook his defender at the blue line to get into a 2-on-0 rush with Conor Sheary. Luongo managed to block Sheary's shot after Crosby dished it over to him, but in a fortuitous bounce the puck ricocheted off the back boards, hit Luongo's skate, and redirected into the net to give Pittsburgh the early 2-0 lead. But that wouldn't be the end of it, as Scott Wilson pounced on a loose puck in the slot, shooting the puck off Tom Kuhnhackl's skate and into the net for the team's 3rd goal in the opening 10 minutes. Florida coach Tom Rowe would challenge the play for goaltender interference, but the replays clearly showed Kuhnhackl outside the crease and Luongo initiating contact, and the goal stood.

Despite allowing 3 goals on his first 5 shots faced, the Panthers kept Roberto Luongo in the net, and the game quickly settled down with the Penguins holding the massive early lead. Pittsburgh took the 3-0 into the locker room for the first intermission, and it wouldn't take long into the 2nd period before the Panthers would cut into the lead. After Kris Letang and Jussi Jokinen were sent off on coincidental slashing minors to put the teams back at 4-on-4, the Pens would take a too many men penalty after Nick Bonino was slow to get off the ice after coming to the bench, and Malkin jumped on to play the puck. The Panthers would only have 11 seconds of at 4-on-3 before Letang and Jokinen were released, but it was enough for them to set up their goal. Aleksander Barkov took the puck up the right boards in transition, and he found Jaromir Jagr driving the slot behind the defense. Jagr made a great play to one-time a puck in his skates, and he beat Murray to cut the deficit to 2. The teams played to a draw for the rest of the period, but Keith Yandle would slash Bryan Rust just before the end of the 2nd to give Pittsburgh a power play to start off the 3rd period.

And the Panthers would nearly turn the man disadvantage into their second goal as they started off the 3rd period with a 2-on-1 rush. However, Letang was able to make a good defensive play to disrupt the odd man rush and Murray was able to make the save. Minutes later, Ekblad would dump Wilson in the corner behind the Florida goal, taking both players to the ice. A Justin Schultz shot from the blue line would bounce right towards him, and Wilson throw the puck on net from his knees trying to bank it in off Luongo. He made the initial stop, but the rebound kicked to Matt Cullen in the slot, and left no doubt about it by burying the goal to make it 4-1 Pittsburgh.

The teams would trade power play opportunities in the 3rd period, but the outcome was never in much doubt. Florida would pull their goalie with over 3 minutes left in regulation, and a Patric Hornqvist slashing penalty would give them a 6-on-4 advantage to work with, but they were unable to capitalize. To put the cherry on top, Matt Murray would shoot on the Panther net with his team up three. With the shot running out of steam, Hagelin would skate under the puck, and as Yandle was clotheslining him to the ice he was able to slide it into the empty net to seal the win.

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