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Penguins trounce Panthers 5-1 off the coattails of two short-handed goals, brilliance by Murray

Pregame

Jamie Oleksiak, for the second-straight game, was listed as a healthy scratch by head coach Mike Sullivan. With Justin Schultz on the mend, things are going to get really interesting for the road block developing with the defensive corps.

Here were the lineups for the Penguins:

And for the Panthers:

The Penguins have won six-straight home games against Florida since their 5-1 loss on January 20, 2014 and are winners of 30 in their last 43 matchups with them.

1st Period

Much like their start against the Blackhawks Sunday evening, the Penguins stormed out of the gates to the tune of another early, easy 2-0 lead.

The first goal, a slick wrister by Tanner Pearson assisted by Bryan Rust:

The second, a gorgeous play by Jake Guentzel to Rust, who deked around Roberto Luongo for a highlight-reel tally:

Matt Murray saw a lot of action early, and closed out the first period with 15 saves, including a last-minute, short-handed breakaway attempt. It’s amazing just how good he has looked since returning from that nagging injury.

The only bad news was Patric Hornqvist, whose face (namely his chin) was the receiver of an errant puck off a deflection. He immediately left the ice and entered the locker room. Zach Aston-Reese took his spot with a promotion to the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Dominik Simon. The Pens closed out the period trailing in shots 15-10, but leading in blocks (7-5) and faceoffs (9-8).

2nd Period

Simon opened the second with a hooking minor, and against the Panthers’ third-ranked power play in the league, Rust decided being short-handed didn’t matter. He fooled Luongo with another deke, this time on his forehand, to boost the Penguins to a 3-0 lead just three minutes into the middle frame.

Just a handful of minutes later, Jack Johnson was banished to the sin bin for holding, giving the Panthers’ allegedly excellent power play another chance to score and get back on the scoreboard… but Riley Sheahan saw an opportunity against what looked like a straight up disinterested unit and embarrassed the men on the man-advantage once again with an incredible forecheck and shot.

From there, after a disallowed tally by Aaron Ekblad due to being offside, the Panthers started to show their frustration. A few chippy moments prior to fisticuffs, including a scuffle involving Murray and Maatta in the crease, MacKenzie Weegar was looking to drop gloves with anyone. Marcus Pettersson decided to entertain it and give it a go. Both of them were nailed with five-minute majors.

During the 4-on-4, Ekblad ripped another shot from the point that made its way over the right shoulder of a screened (and potentially interfered with) Murray. Sullivan tried his hand at another challenge, but even with McCann’s backside grazing Murray’s head, the goal counted, and the Panthers finally got onto the scoreboard 4-1.

Pittsburgh closed the period trailing 30-21 in shots and 22-18 in faceoffs, but leading in blocks 17-7 (!) and on the scoreboard by three.

3rd Period

Once again, the Penguins opened the period with a penalty — an interference minor to Aston-Reese that ruffled the feathers of Florida. As soon as ZAR served his penalty, exited the box, and hit another cat against the boards, Colton Sceviour dropped the gloves with him…and subsequently got his ass beat.

A lot of penalties later, a 4-on-4 sequence got Malkin and Sidney Crosby clicking, and it ended in a brilliant redirect by the captain to put this one to bed 5-1.

Some Thoughts:

  • Murray has truly looked unbelievable since returning from injury. It goes to say that this Panthers team, one that was missing a couple key players, did not look sharp, but Murray still faced a ton of shots. Before Ekblad’s tally, Murray stopped 66 shots in a row for a shutout clock time of 117:54 straight. He’s been so, so sharp, and the Penguins should ride him (and stop starting Casey DeSmith when they don’t have to) for as long as he stays scorching hot.
  • Kris Letang came into this matchup riding a seven-game point streak with 10 (three goals, seven assists), matching his career-long. He would’ve continued that with his helper on the Rust shorty, but unfortunately he passed to Dumoulin, who passed to Cullen, who passed to Rust, and that doesn’t count as an assist for Letang.
  • With two points tonight, Rust reached a pretty substantial milestone. In just 223 NHL games played, he eclipsed 100 career points. Remember when everyone was worried about him?
  • Short-handed goals, short-handed goals, short-handed goals! It’s wild seeing this team scoring them in bunches with ease (the first time since Tom Kuhnhackl and Nick Bonino did it back on March 29, 2016) when just a couple short months ago, they couldn’t stop a breakaway against on the man-advantage to save their lives. Florida is now tied with the Bruins for the most short-handed goals against with nine.
  • Crosby netted a beautiful redirect. The sky is blue. He now has 12 career seasons with at least 20 goals, tying Mario Lemieux for most 20-goal seasons in franchise history.



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