Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recap of Last Night's Game Against Pittsburgh

At Litter Box Cats they posted a recap of the game last night for those that might wonder how it went in detail.

by Ryan Meier on Oct 11, 2011 10:26 PM EDT

This was a tale of two teams: one that has had a few years to further refine itself after a huge Stanley Cup victory several seasons ago, dealing with the loss of two superstars due to injury yet still playing an incredibly successful game night in and night out; the other an amalgam of new faces and styles, still finding its way and forming that always-valuable chemistry among the roster.

After a solid opening night win, the Panthers rolled into Pittsburgh to face a Penguins team that would be playing its fourth game in six nights, but fatigue didn't matter as the Pens dropped Florida 4-2. The Panthers, who played a very disciplined and tight game against the New York Islanders on Saturday, looked quite different as they struggled to maintain possession and turned the puck over on a very regular basis. It's clear there's still plenty to work on for the Cats, but 80 games remain, with lots of time to fix the messy play folks saw on Tuesday night.


The Pens came in tired, but certainly didn't look like it. The period started out with a lot of energy from both squads with a lot of fast skating, end-to-end action and tenacious play on the puck. The Panthers got the first power play but were unable to score as Pittsburgh's penalty kill, tops in the NHL last season, continued its success. After a fair amount of pressure by the Penguins, the Cats committed a penalty with Ryan Carter heading to the box, but were able to kill it off. The Panthers then rebounded a bit with some puck possession time, but had a lot of trouble getting plays off in the offensive zone. Against tougher competition like Pittsburgh, it's clear that the Panthers still need time to get used to each other and start to develop more offensive chemistry. There's still a lot of "throw it on net, hope for the best," and the passing in the zone was less effective than the last game against the New York Islanders. Shortly after, the Pens struck first, with Pascal Dupuis hammering away at Jose Theodore without much help. Rookie Erik Gudbranson and defensive partner Ed Jovanovski were caught out of position and against a well-coached and very deep squad like Pittsburgh, you don't want to be out of position. After allowing the first goal, the Cats were back on their heels a bit, but nearly scored as Stephen Weiss had a backhand on an empty net but shanked it and didn't get it elevated, allowing Fleury to make a nice save. Tomas Fleischmann took a late penalty for hooking, giving the Pens a second powerplay chance, but the Panthers were able to clear it a few times and burn the penalty off. Both teams finished with 12 shots apiece for the frame, but the Panthers got schooled in the faceoff circle, 13-5.


Both teams came out at about the same intensity level, but the Panthers got called on a relatively weak boarding call against Jason Garrison early in the period. The Pens had some good puck possession but were unable to convert. The Cats PK still looks as solid as last year, and we all know how important the special teams will be for this team's success this season. After that, the Panthers didn't register much in the way of shots, as the Pens were able to use their system to keep the Panthers from anything but perimeter shots that were routine saves for Fleury. At around 8:30 left in the period, the Penguins struck again, with Matt Cooke dumping a shot past Theodore off a great feed from Joe Vitale. Shortly after a commercial break, Kevin Dineen was interviewed about the Panthers offensive pressure, saying, "We're trying to take the cute out of it, and put pucks at the net." No more than 15 seconds later did the Panthers do just that, with Marcel Goc getting his first of the year after a great rush up ice by Jack Skille. Shortly after, the Panthers got back on the man advantage with Cooke taking an interference call, and promptly allowed the Penguins to score a terrible shorthanded goal. A bad shift by Gudbranson and Jovanovski was followed up by a very bad turnover by Fleischmann, and after pinballing around a bit the puck ended up in the Panther net. Dineen and assistant coach Craig Ramsay will have a field day with that film. The Panthers got one last powerplay in the period, but were unable to convert and went into the third with a two goal deficit.


The Cats started the third period with some bad turnovers, which led to a bad tripping penalty by Dmitry Kulikov taking down Jordan Staal. The Panthers were able to kill off the penalty effectively and followed up with a quick tally by Fleischmann off a great point shot by Gudbranson and a nifty backhand feed by Weiss. This was all thanks to a faceoff win in the defensive zone by Weiss after the Penguins waited too long to line up. The play went back and forth again for most of the period until Staal muscled his way in to create a scoring chance, and caught the Panthers forwards flat-footed, as the rebound lay in the crease and no one picked up a streaking James Neal who hammered home the puck. The Cats then immediately got a powerplay but were unable to convert, and Pittsburgh's excellent neutral zone play shut the Panthers down the rest of the way. Theodore was pulled late in the game during the final Panthers powerplay with just under two minutes to go, but it didn't matter as the Penguins held on until the final horn.

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