Each year the Penguins invite the fathers to join their sons on a road trip. And while the “Dads’ Trip” is undoubtedly one of the most popular events of the season, the Pens’ brass may want to consider inviting the moms next time in the wake of this year’s 0-for-Florida trip.
Determined to atone for Thursday night’s disappointing loss to Tampa Bay, the pumped-up Penguins got the jump on the Panthers. Barely a minute into the opening period, Chris Kunitz intercepted a face-off win by Florida and fed Pascal Dupuis crossing over the blue line. After deflecting “Duper’s” shot on net, Kunitz poked the rebound past Panthers goalie Jose Theodore to stake the Pens to a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers battled back to knot the score at 7:28 when Kris Versteeg spotted Brian Campbell coming late on the play. Versteeg slipped the puck to the onrushing defenseman, who curled in front of Brent Johnson and flipped the puck in on his backhand. Florida had a chance for a second goal moments later, but Johnson made a spectacular glove save to rob Jack Skille.
Unfortunately, the Pens got into hot water when Kunitz was given the gate for interference early in the second period. Tomas Fleischmann made him pay, banging in his own rebound for a power-play goal at 5:48.
Refusing to buckle, the Pens tied the game seven minutes later on a gem of a goal by Jordan Staal. Dupuis raced down the left side of the Florida zone and fired off a sharp-angle shot that was denied by Theodore. Staal scooped up the rebound and glided across the slot before ripping home his 10th goal of the season.
“He was leading the way, right from the shift he scored the goal on,” Pens coach Dan Bylsma said.
Sparked by Staal’s big tally, the Penguins out-shot Florida 17-10 in the third period. At the other end of the ice, Johnson kept the black and gold in the game with a sparkling stop on a slick backdoor play by Versteeg. Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin responded by peppering Theodore with a volley of quality shots, but the veteran goalie held firm.
The surging Penguins promptly shot themselves in the foot when they drew a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty with 4:05 left to play. Florida’s Stephen Weiss jabbed the puck between Johnson’s pads from a goal-mouth scramble, and the Pens’ netminder tumbled backward and nudged the puck over the line.
Pittsburgh continued to fire away, including a glorious chance by Staal at the right post with 40 seconds to go. But Theodore stuffed the Pens to earn two points for Florida.
“We made some mental mistakes tonight, and it was pretty evident in the chances they had,” Bylsma said.
Dupuis collected two assists … Alexandre Picard paced the Pens with a plus-2 (plus-5 overall) … Pittsburgh out-shot Florida 41-31 … The Pens have lost three out of four … The club has allowed 15 goals (including four power-play goals) during that span … Johnson stopped 28 of 31 shots … The Pens are 1-4-1 against the Southeast Division … Sidney Crosby, Jeffrey, Ben Lovejoy, Steve MacIntyre, Zbynek Michalek, and Brian Strait were scratches.
The Penguins (11-6-3) open a three-game home stand when they face the New York Islanders (5-9-3) at CONSOL Energy Center on Monday. The Pens beat the Islanders in back-to-back games in October.
*Be sure to check out Rick’s new book, “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” at TriumphBooks.com. It features 296 pages of bios, stories, anecdotes and photos from the team’s colorful past in a compelling, easy-to-read style. Whether you’re a die-hard booster from the days of Jean Pronovost or a big fan of Sid and Geno, this book is a must have for any true Penguins fan.
Don’t forget to check out Rick’s first book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and storied history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more.