-Tonight is another step in the evaluation process of Jeff Zatkoff. The Penguins are expected to start Zatkoff after Marc-Andre Fleury recorded a shutout last night. Zatkoff is returning to the scene of his first NHL start. he did not preform well as the Panthers won, 6-3, Oct. 11. His mental toughness will be tested as he faces a team which lit him up. Tonight's result could go a long way towards the Penguins' plans with him and the backup goaltending role.
-The Penguins are expected to face goaltender Tim Thomas tonight. It's been a long time since Thomas faced the Penguins. He was chased after making seven saves on 10 shots for the Bruins in a 5-2 Penguins win at Consol Energy Center, March 11, 2012. Evgeni Malkin recorded his 500th career point in that game.
-Thomas has a fairly good history against the Penguins. In 18 games, he has a 8-6-4 record, a 2.72 goals against average, .938 save percentage and one shutout.
-He's not quite the franchise goaltender he was in his last few seasons with Boston. (It's amazing how much mortal a goaltender can become when Zdeno Chara isn't in front of him). That said, Thomas is probably still one of the 10 or 15 best goaltenders in the NHL. He gives an undermanned Panthers team a chance in every game.
-Thomas has sort of moved his way into the conversation for the United States Olympic team, thanks in part to an injury to Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick. That said, unless the likes of Jimmy Howard or Ryan Miller get injured, we have a hard time seeing Thomas going to Sochi.
-Regarding Evgeni Malkin and his penalty for an equipment violation yesterday, Dan Byslma addressed it with the media prior to the game:
-It's been popular for the past week to question while Robert Bortuzzo is a healthy scratch at the expense of Deryk Engelland. Frankly, we've wondered about it ourselves. That said, Engelland hasn't done anything in the past week which would merit a healthy scratch himself. He's been one of the team's more consistent performers the past week or so, albeit in a much lesser role than the likes of Kris Letang or Brooks Orpik. We think Bortuzzo is better than Engelland ourselves, but Engelland has not given the coaches a reason to scratch him in recent games.
-The Penguins' starters are Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Deryk Engelland, Brooks Orpik and Jeff Zatkoff.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo and Zach Sill.
-The Panthers' starters are Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Scottie Upshall, and Tim Thomas.
-Their scratches are xxxx.
19:15: Corralling a puck at the left point, Campbell whips a wrister on net. Zatkoff eats it up.
19:03: Off a feed from behind the cage by Tomas Fleischmann, Tom Gilbert whacks a one-timer form the right circle. It hits a stick and deflects away.
18:50: After blocking a slapper by Fleischmann in the slot, Letang hobbles to the bench in discomfort.
18:10: Mike Weaver flings a wrister from the right point. Zatkoff snags it.
17:40: According to Root Sports broadcaster, NHL official Craig Adams received a game misconduct penalty after last night's game after he complained to on-ice official Tim Peel in regards to Malkin's uniform violation penalty. According to Steigerwald, Lightning forward Alex Killorn was given a warning for a uniform violation like Malkin was. Later, Peel adjusted Killorn's jersey while Malkin received a minor for his violation.
17:45: A wrister by Scott Gomez in the right circle, Orpik blocks it.
15:55: A slapper by Marcel Goc is gloved by Zatkoff.
15:02: The Panthers are controlling things early. Dylan Olsen collects a puck on the right wing and flings a wrister from the half wall. Zatkoff fights it off.
12:13: Dmitry Kulikov weaves in off the left wing and flings a backhander from the slot. Engelland slides down to block it. Brad Boyes has a chance with the rebound to the left of the cage. Zatkoff is sliding into the net but is able to punch it away with his blocker.
11:50: The Penguins are called for too many men on the ice. Jokinen will serve the minor. Adams, Pascal Dupuis, Orpik and Letang will take the ice.
11:02: Stealing a pass in his slot, Dupuis backhands a puck down ice. A line change brings Brandon Sutter, Andrew Ebbett, Deryk Engelland and Simon Despres.
9:49: As the Penguins' bench minor, Kulikov tripped up Dupuis. That's two minutes. Sidney Crosby, Neal, Malkin, Letang and Chris Kunitz take the ice.
9:39: A one-timer by Crosby from the right circle is blocked by Erik Gudbranson.
9:15: Thomas tries to play a puck from behind his net to Weaver in the left wing corner. Malkin steal it and flings it immediately to the blue paint. Neal jabs it by a scrambling Thomas. The puck skids to the slot where Kunitz fans partially ont he shot but gets enough to direct it into the open cage as Thomas swims in his blue paint. The Penguins got a bit lucky on that play but earned that goal with some hard work by Malkin. Neal and Malkin get assists. Penguins 1-0.
8:43: Engelland whacks a puck from the right half wall. It hits a body or two in front of the blue paint and hops up. The great Joe Vitale is able to get a piece of it and force it over the red line by a scrambling thomas. Weaver sweeps it out just as officials blow play dead. A goal is the call on the ice. A video review confirms the goal. Vitale gets credit for the goal. It's his first goal in forever (32 games). Jayson Megna and Deryk Engelland get assists. Penguins 2-0.
8:11: Shawn Matthias snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Zatkoff steers it away.
8:02: Kunitz challenges Olsen with the puck up the left wing. Olsen pokes it off his stick then gives Kunitz a good thump into the end boards.
7:16: A one-timer by Olli Maatta from the left point is blocked in front.
6:20: Collecting a puck at the left point, Olsen booms a slapper. Zatkoff fights it off despite traffic.
6:19: Another power play for the Panthers. Malkin is called for hooking Upshall. in the Penguins' left wing corner. Orpik, Letang, Sutter and Adams take the ice.
5:01: Dupuis whips a loose puck from the left circle down ice for a clear.
4:19: The Malkin minor is killed with little threat from the Panthers' power play.
3:59: Off a backhanded feed by Crosby, Kunitz lifts a wrister from the left circle. Thomas traps it against his chest.
3:38: Weaver flings a wrister from the left point. It hits a body in front. Sean Bergenheims whips the rebound back on net with a backhander. Zatkoff kicks it out. Tough save.
3:02: Another penalty for the Penguins. Crosby slashed the stick of Gilbert. It's actually an interference minor. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Letang take the ice.
2:36: From center point, Campbell deals a pass to Fleischmann on the right half wall. Fleischmann whacks a one-timer which Zatkoff fights off.
1:59: Campbell whacks a slapper from above the left circle which is blocked.
1:40: Aleksander Barkov snaps off a wrister from the right circle which Zatkoff fights off despite traffic.
1:02: The Crosby minor expires. The Panthers tried to generate chances from the perimeter but the Penguins clogged up the shooting and passing lanes.
0:35: A one-timer by Niskanen from the left point is blocked.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Panthers 0.
-What a start for Zatkoff. He was tested quite a bit that period, especially early on and stood tall. While he did fight the puck a bit, he kicked out a several safe rebounds.
-Granted, the Panthers have an awful power play, but the Penguins' penalty kill came up big in that period. The Panthers tried to generate a bunch of chances from the outside but the Penguins limited their chances in tight.
-More of the same from Simon Despres. Confident and composed. He had 2:39 of penalty kill time that period.
-The Panthers have a 15-6 lead in shots.
-The Panthers have a 24-15 lead in attempted shots.
-Engelland, Kunitz, Olsen, Fleischmann, Bjustad and Goc each lead the game with two shots.
-Campbell leads the game with 9:46 of ice time.
-Letang leads the Penguins with 8:14.
-The Penguins have a 9-6 lead in faceoffs (60 percent).
-Malkin was 3 for 3 (100 percent).
-Gomez was 2 for 3 (67 percent).
-Gudbrandon leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Letang leads the Penguins with two blocked shots.
18:37: A wrister by Crosby from the right circle is wide of the cage.
17:39: Off a cross-ice feed by Campbell, Gilbert pumps a one-timer from the left point. Zatkoff fights it off.
15:30: Off a slick zone entry, Boyes lifts a wrister from the high slot. Zatkoff gloves it.
15:15: Gilbert flings a wrister from the right point. It hits a body in front.
14:13: A slapper by Orpik from the left point is blocked.
13:30: Collecting a puck at the left point is blocked wide.
12:55: Stealing a puck in the defensive zone, Despres deals a pass to Conner on the right wing. Conner motors up the boards and deals a pass to Ebbett on the right wing. The timing is a bit off and Ebbett misses the puck then crashes into the boards.
12:37: Taking a little pass from Letang in his own zone, Malkin lugs the puck up ice through the neutral zone. He deals a little pass to Maatta on the left wing. Maatta gains the offensive zone and deals it back to Malkin in the left circle. Malkin attacks the net, flips the puck this backhand and tucks it by the left skate of a jammed up Thomas. That wasn't a great goal for anyone in a red jersey to allow. Maatta and Letang get assists. Penguins 3-0.
10:48: Off a rush by Crosby, Dupuis takes a drop pass on the right half wall and whacks a slapper on net. Thomas kicks it out. Crosby is there for the rebound but the puck hops over his stick.
9:45: The Panthers get the puck in deep, outwork the Penguins and get on the scoreboard... or do they? Boyes chips the puck up the right wing wall to the end boards. Barkov (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) uses his size to win a puck battle from Niskanen (6-foot-0, 209 pounds) and Malkin (6-foot-3, 195 pounds). Then Barkov is able to chip a pass to Bergenheim who then tries to tuck a backhander into the blue paint. It hits off Boyes' skate and hops into the cage. Officials go to video review and after a lengthy delay, they overturn the goal call. The rule Boyes kicked the puck. That was a tough one to judge.
8:34: Goc races into the offensive one with speed and whacks a slapper which hits a stick and deflects out of play.
7:34: Campbell tries to play a puck from the left point to the slot. Despres intercepts the puck and plays it up ice.
7:05: The great Joe Vitale chips a puck from the left circle. Thomas knocks it dead and covers.
6:21: On a two-on-two rush, Conner chips a puck from the right wing towards Crosby in the slot. The puck hops up and misses Crosby.
5:49: Barkov has a chance in tight but Zatkoff knocks it dead and covers.
5:25: Jesse Winchester flings a wrister from the right wing. Zatkoff eats it up.
4:29: After an icing call, the Penguins call a timeout to get a breather.
4:16: Boyes and Matthias each have a chance in tight but can't beat Zatkoff.
3:19: Another penalty for the Penguins. Kunitz is nabbed for hooking Bjugstad. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Letang take the ice.
2:25: Fleischmann flings a wrister from center point. It hits a body in front. Dupuis settles the rebound and flings it down ice.
2:07: Taking a neutral zone pass from Campbell, Jonathan Huberdeau gains the offensive zone at center point and tucks a little backhand pass to Upshall streaking up the left wing. Upshall gets a step on Sutter, goes from his forehand to his backhand and tucks a nifty shot by the blocker of Zatkoff on the near side. What an effort by Upshall. Hudberdeal and Campbell get assists. Penguins 3-1.
1:38: The Penguins get it right back. After Neal forces a turnover by Olsen in the neutral zone, Malkin controls the puck along the Florida' end boards. Fighting off Gudbranson, Malkin is able to sneak a backhanded pass to Neal in the right circle. Neal leans down and snaps off a one-timer by the glove hand of a falling Thomas. What a wonderful effort by Malkin who gets the only assist. Penguins 4-1.
0:24: Malkin is centering Ebbett and Conner. Conner deals a pass to Malkin behind the cage. Malkin deals a pass to Ebbett above the blue paint. Ebbett jabs a quick shot which Thomas gets a piece of miraculously.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Panthers 1.
-With an early lead the Penguins have adopted a defensive mentality in this game. They are sitting back and allowing the Panthers to bring the attack. With the Panthers not having a great deal of offensive skill, they can only generate so many goals.
-The Penguins' offense is coming from mistakes or turnovers by the Panthers. When the Panthers do make an error, the Penguins are attacking.
-Zatkoff continues to look strong. He has faced plenty of quality scoring chances and has turned away nearly every one of them.
-Malkin continues to carry the offense for the Penguins. He has created so many things as of late on offense.
-The Panthers have a 24-13 lead in shots on net.
-The Panthers have a 41-28 lead in attempted shots.
-Enegelland and Olsen each lead the game with three shots.
-Campbell leads the game with 21:54 of ice time.
-Letang leads the Penguins with 16:31.
-Faceoffs are even, 20-20 (50 percent).
-Malkin is 7 for 9 (78 percent).
-Barkov is 6 for 10 (60 percent).
-Gudbranson leads the game with four blocked shots.
-Letang leads the Penguins with three blocked shots.
20:00: The Panthers show some mercy by pulling Thomas in favor of Scott Clemmensen.
18:44: Off a turnover by Letang in his own right wing corner, Fleischmann rips a quick wrister from the right circle. Zatkoff fights it off. Letang owes Zatkoff a beer.
17:15: Engelland goes in deep on the right wing and chips a wrister on net. Clemmensen kicks it out.
16:33: Despres puts a stiff check into big Jim Hayes (6-foot-6, 221 pounds) on the Penguins' end boards.
16:12: Barkov lifts a wrister from the high slot. Zatkoff fights it off. Bergenheim collects the rebound on the left wing and flings it on net. Zatkoff eats it up.
14:07: Kulikov chucks a shot on net from the left point Zatkoff fights it off.
13:50: More offense created by Malkin. Kulikov controls the puck in his own left circle. Malkin forechecks him and forces him to fan on a pass attempt. Malkin takes the puck and deals to Jokinen positioned in the slot. Jokinen grips and rips a wrister by the glove hand of a stunned Clemmensen. What a play by Malkin. Malkin gets the only assist. Penguins 5-1.
11:36: Ebbett pushes the puck up the left wing and is shoved to the ice by Gudbranson.
10:50: Pushing a puck up the left wing, Malkin gains the offensive zone and deals a cross-ice pass to Neal on the right wing. Neal sweeps a one-timer wide of the cage.
9:16: Zatkoff snags a wrister by Gudbranson.
8:24: Dupuis motor up the right wing, gains the offensive zone and cuts across the slot to the left wing. Dupuis lifts a wrister which Clemmensen fights off.
8:12: Hayes weaves his way up ice through the neutral zone. He flips a backhander from the left circle. Zaktoff challenges the shot and kicks it out. Gomez follows up on the rebound and has it blocked by Conner who flops down and has the puck clank off his helmet. Ouch. Conner appears fine.
6:00ish: Root Sports shows a dent in Conner's lid which lost a penguins logo from the Gomez shot:
5:28: Letang has a wrister in the slot blocked by Barkov. Letang recovers the rebound and puts it on net. Clemmensen smothers it. Letang crashes in digging for a rebound. Gibutranson takes issue and knocks off Letang's helmet.
4:50: After Zatkoff turns a puck over from behidn the net, Fleischmann whips a quick wrister from the left wing. Zatkoff smothers it.
4:11: Bjugstad tries to jam in a forehand shot from the left of the net. Zatkoff fights it off.
3:06: With Letang pinching in deep, the Panthers generate a three-on-one against Maatta. Matthias deals a pass from the left wing to Gomez on the right wing. Gomez rips a wrister too the far side. Zatkoff makes the intial save. Hayes tries to jab in the rebound but Zatkoff's right skate holds it out.
2:15: Crosby chops a loose puck from the right wing to the the net. It hits a stick and bounces away.
0:49: Malkin flings a wrister from the left circle wide to the far side.
0:12: A slapper by Kulikov from the right point is blocked.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Panthers 1.
-The only thing we can really take away from this this game is that the Penguins are a much more talented team than the Panthers. The Penguins earn an easy two points in a game they should have. They squashed a poor Panthers team and didn't really have to extend themselves a great deal in doing so.
-What a big moment for Jeff Zatkoff. He returned to the scene of his NHL debut - a nightmare of a game - and earned a calm, confident win. While the Panthers didn't offer many quality scoring chances, but they did put a ton of shots on net. Zatkoff didn't fight the puck much and he kicked out a lot of safe rebounds. He earned this win.
-Newsflash: Evgeni Malkin is still pretty good. He tilted the ice anytime he was on the ice. Skating through the Panthers defense most of the night, Malkin was the most dominant player on the ice.
-The start of the game was key. The Panthers came out aggressively and put a ton of shots on net. Zatkoff turned them away and allowed his team to scrape out a few goals later in the period. After that, this was the Penguins' game the rest of the way.
-It's amazing that this is the same team which looked like a complete mess against the Maple Leafs Wednesday. Like last night against the Lightning, the Penguins played a pretty discipline game tonight and limited their turnovers and the quality scoring chances of the Panthers.
-For the first month and half of the season, Sidney Crosby carried the offense and drew the tougher defensive assignments from opponents. With Malkin carrying the offense now, will teams focus on his line now?
-Special teams were big for the Penguins. They scored on their only power play and went 3 for 4 on the penalty kill. The Panthers had a few power plays in the first period and couldn't match the Penguins offense in that opening 20 minutes.
-The special teams have been key in recent games:
-Simon Despres continued to show he belongs at this level. He had yet another composed, confident and error-free game. His contract status would be the only reason he would return to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton if the Penguins get a few bodies healthy on the blue line.
-A few errors still popped up in Kris Letang's game. He had a turnover early in the third period and later left Olli Maatta out to dry on a three-on-one by the Panthers. We don't know what to say about this guy at this point.
-The Penguins' third line had another solid but hardly spectacular game. They created a few things with speed but didn't have the ability to finish chances.
-Chris Kuntiz just keeps scoring goals. He's been tuned in since the start of the season. He's been the team's most consistent goal scorer through two months.
-Deryk Engelland had another nice effort. He didn't make any errors we could identify and even showed a few things offensively.
-How bad did Tim Thomas look? He's always been willing to play a scrambling style but he was out of position badly on more than a few occasions. He didn't do his team any favors. If Thomas was hoping to make a case for the United States Olympic team in front of Dan Bylsma, he failed.
-The Panthers didn't quit. That's probably the best thing we could say about them in this game. They went hard from the start of the game to the finish. They just don't have that much talent.
-The Panthers had a 40-22 lead in shots on net.
-The Panthers led in attempted shots, 68-57.
-Deryk Engelland and Jimmy Hayes each led the game with four shots.
-Every Panthers skater recorded a shot on net.
-Brian Campbell led the game with 29:51 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguins with 23:09.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 33-28 (54 percent).
-Malkin was 10 for 14 (71 percent).
-Barkov was 9 for 15 (60 percent).
-Erik Gudbrandon led the game with four blocked shots.
-Letang and Despres each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Crosby (36 points) now has a one-point lead over Malkin (35 points) in the league scoring race.
-Malkin now has 595 career points.