-Greetings on a cold, dank day in Pittsburgh. It's in the mid, 30s and sort of humid. Not a pleasant day for any time of the year.
-The Penguins face a Panthers team coming off a convincing 5-2 win at Philadelphia last night. The Panthers got most of their production from their "kid" line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Drew Shore and Peter Mueller. It will be interesting to see if Dan Bylsma sicks his third line on that trio or Florida's makeshift top trio of Tomas Fleischman, Stephen Weiss or Tomas Kopecky.
-The Penguins are expected to insert Dustin Jeffrey into the lineup tonight on the fourth line in place of the great Joe Vitale. That line was pretty flat against the Flyers Wednesday. Perhaps Jeffrey can bring a little offensive flair and tad more size that Vitale doesn't have.
-The defensive pairing of Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin need a rebound game after a bad effort against the Flyers.
-Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom is expected to make his season debut tonight. It doesn't get any tougher than facing to former MVPs.
-Simon Despres is expected returns to the lineup after sitting two games. Florida doesn't really have too much grit the lineup other than Washington, Pa. native George Parros. That presumably allows the Penguins to scratch big Robert Bortuzzo in place of the more skilled Despres.
-Alex Kovalev returns to Pittsburgh for the first time since Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Lightning when he was benched at the end on a power play which could have potentially tied the game. Kovalev is not expected to play tonight. He's been a healthy scratch frequently this season after making the club on a tryout basis in training camp.
-Regardless of how poorly Kovalev's second stint with the Penguins, he should still be remembered as one of the five most talented players in Penguins history based on pure and simple skill.
-UPDATE: Per the Miami Herald's George Richards, it looks like Kovalev will play in place of Mike Santorelli.
-Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is scheduled to be in attendance tonight. That means' the Penguins are either going to get Alex Pietrangelo for Tyler Kennedy's left skate or Armstrong is a fan of Primanti's.
-We anxiously await several self-proclaimed "insiders" to tweet about the Penguins' possible interest in the Blues' pending free agents which which they looked up on CapGeek.com.
-Pascal Dupuis is on the cover of ice time:
-We always seem to run into a Craig Adams fan:
-Fans entering the barn:
-This might be the best night of jerseys we've encountered in years.
-Sidney Crosby is popular and Canadian:
-Simon Despres Saint John Sea Dogs:
-Downtown Robbie Brown:
-One of the few men to score a postseason goal for the Panthers and Penguins, Martin Straka:
-This is rare. Frank Pietrangelo WITH the 1990 All-Star Game patch:
-Almost as rare, Jim Paek:
-The couple that recognizes tough Swedish Penguins defensemen together, stays together. Ulf and Kjell Samuelsson:
-Another Double Jersey of the Night: Gilles Meloche Cleveland Barons:
-And Gilles Meloche California Seals:
-The Penguins are wearing their new ways to make money blue jerseys.
-The Penguins' starters are Beau Bennett, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Matt Niskanen and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Zach Boychuk and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Panthers' starters are Marcel Goc, Shawn Matthias, Jack Skille, Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov and Jacob Markstrom.
-Their scratches are Scott Clemmensen, Kris Versteeg and George Parros.
-No Jimerson. No anthem photo.
19:10: Skille, who worked out a little with the Penguins' players at Iceoplex during the lockout, pushes hi way up the left wing, gets by Niskanen and attacks the net. Before he fires a forehand shot, Fleury poke checks the puck away.
19:04: Letang tries to play the rebound out of danger but chips a brutal backhanded pass attempt to Huberdeau on the left wing of the offensive zone. Huberdeau puts a wrister on net. Fleury eats it up. Letang owes Fleury some poutine.
18:56: Off a pass from Dupuis, Kunitz flings a wrister on net from the right wing wall. Markstrom eats it up.
18:25: Dupuis drives in off the right wing and tries to jam in a forehand shot. Markstrom holds it out.
16:41: Erik Gudbranson throws a wrister on net from the right point. It hits Kovalev who was trying to screen Fleury and the rebound deflects to the left wing corner.
16:20: Glass tries to jam in a backhanded wraparound from the left of the cage. Markstrom holds it out.
15:45: Filip Kuba flings a loose puck on net from the left wing. Fleury squeezes the pads and kicks it out despite traffic.
14:30: Letang slides a point-to-point pass to Niskanen coming off the bench. From the left point, Niskanen cracks a one-timer which Markstrom eats up. There wasn't a lot of traffic on that shot.
13:57: Matt Cooke, who is playing with Brandon Sutter and Tyler Kennedy for the moment, slames Drew Shore to the ice with a check into the left corner boards of the offensive zone.
13:00: Looks like Bennett is playing with Malkin and Neal for the time being.
12:45: Neal drives to the cage up the slot and snap off a wrister which gets' blocked partially by a defender. Markstrom kicks out the puck. Malkin and Bennett each have chance on the rebound but can't put it behind Markstrom.
11:14: The Penguins get the first power play of the night as Huberdeau is nabbed for holding the stick of Craig Adams. Neal, Crosby, Kunitz, Paul Martin and Malkin take the ice.
10:22: Kopecky snaps off a wrister from the left wing which Martin blocks with his stick.
9:50: From the right circle, Malkin taps a pass to Letang at center point. Letang taps it right back to him and Malkin slams a one-timer on net. Markstrom fights it off.
9:29: From center point, Letang slides a pass to Malkin in the right circle again. Once again, Malkin hammers a one-timer. Markstrom maks the save despite a cluster of bodies screening him. Sutter chops the rebound back on net. Markstrom snags it.
9:14: The Huberdeau minor is killed. The Penguins recorded two shots on net during that two minutes, both by Malkin.
8:48: Huberdeau tries to push the puck into the offensive zone on the left wing and is slammed to the ice by Niskanen. Kind of weird play. Huberdeau was sort of standing strait up and skated into Niskanen who is hardly a killer in terms of physical play.
8:07: Fleury is called for tirpping Stephen Weiss. Jeffrey will serve the penalty. Dupuis, Cooke, Orpik and Deryk Engelland take the ice.
6:42: Off a tap pass from Huberdeau Shore rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury swats it away with his glove hand.
6:07: The Fleury minor is killed. The Panthers only recorded one shot on net during that power play.
4:20: Shore lifts a wrister from center point. Fleury snags it easily.
3:36: The Panthers chip a puck into the Penguins' end boards. Orpik skates after the puck with Peter Mueller in chase. Mueller pokes out Oprik's left skate with his stick and sends Orpik crashing into the boards feet first. Play is halted. A small scrum ensues. Orpik appears fine but is agitated and justly so. That's a dangerous play. Mueller gets two minutes for tripping. Martin, Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz and Neal take the ice.
3:18: Taking a pss from Martin, Crosby whacks a one-timer on net from the right circle. Markstrom eats it up.
1:56: From the left point, Malkin slides a pass to Niskanen above the left circle. Niskanen hammers a one-timer whch Markstrom gloves.
1:47: Off the left half wall, Tyler Kennedy grips and rips a wrister which Markstrom eats up. Markstrom is seeing everything tonight.
1:36: The Mueller minor expires. The Penguins attempted three shots during that power play.
0:46: Off a chip and chase play into the Penguins' zone, Kovalev appears to get away with a trip against Despres behind the Penguins' net.
0:00: End of period. Panthers 0, Penguins 0.
-The story of that period was Markstrom. The puck looked like a beach ball to him. He's seeing everything and he's not really battling the puck. His rebound are mostly clean and he just seems composed.
-Fleury was rarely tested that period.
-The Penguins controlled puck possession that period. They spent most of the period in the Panthers' end of the ice and certainly had some quality scoring chances.
-It's refreshing to see Bennett on the second line. If he's going to be a success in the NHL, it's in a top six role. the Penguins' best even-strength scoring chance came with the Bennett-Malkin-Neal line.
-The Penguins' power play was okay. It put some quality chances on net. Markstrom just didn't give up too many second-chance rebounds. That said, the Penguins didn't have a ton of traffic in front of the cage.
-The Panthers were really flat that period. Given that they played last night in Philadelphia, that's to be expected.
-The Penguins are dominating shots, 12-3.
-Malkin and Niskanen each lead the game with two.
-Crosby leads the game with 8:22 of ice time.
-Dmitry Kulikov leads the Panthers with 7:39.
-The Penguins have a 9-7 edge in faceoffs (56 percent).
-Sutter is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Weiss is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Orpik leads the game with two blocked shots.
19:14: Crosby leas a rush up the left wing two-on-two with Kunitz on
18:56: Tyson Strachan rips a wrister from the left wing. Fleury says no.
18:30: The Panthers on a flurry here to start the second period. After a turnover by Cooke in the defensvie zone, shore pounds a slapper from abave the right circle. Fleury knocks it dead and covers.
18:11: Huberdeau pounds a slapper from the left wing. Fleury fights it off.
17:35: Letang snaps off a wrister from the left point. Despite traffic, Markstrom is able to cleanly glove it.
17:26: Attendance is announced as 18,655. It is the team's 262nd consecutive sell out.
17:03: Kovalev chucks a wrister from above the left circle. It hits a body in front
16:38: After Adams forces a turnover on the right wing boards, Glass whacks a loose puck on net from the right circle. Markstrom battles it away.
16:01: Bennett races up the left wing, fends off Strachan and attacks the net. Markstrom appears to poke the puck away. Malkin fire the rebound on net from the slot. Markstrom fights it off. That was an impressive display of strenght by Bennett (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) to fight off the larger Strachan (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) while driving to the cage.
15:02: Despres collects a puck at the center point and hammer a one-timer on net. Markstrom kicks it out. Kunitz has chance on the rebound but can't get a clean stick on it.
13:48: After strong display of puck possession by the Penguins, Letang wires a wrister from above the right circle wide of the cage.
13:37: After Cooke and Letang fumble a puck at the Panthers' bench, Shawn Matthias fires a wrister wide of the mark from slot.
13:14: Kopecky spins an whacks a loose puck from the top of the slot on net. Fleury boots it out. Fleischman dives at the rebound and pokes it wide of the cage from the left wing.
11:35: After a strong rush into the offensive zone by Mueller, Huberdeau pokes the puck on net. Fleury appears to get his right leg on it. The rebound is played out badly by Martin. Brian Campbell deals to Mike Weaver at the right point. Weaver drives a looping slapper which hits Huberdeay in front and deflects by Fleury. A nice dirty goal. Martin's poor clearing attempt created that chance. Weaver and Campbell get assists. Panthers 1-0.
10:37: The Penguins get a chance to tie it up as Jarred Smithson is called for hooking Crosby. Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Malkin and Martin take the ice.
9:19: And the Penguins get it back. Taking a pass from Malkin, Neal taks a pas down low near the right of the cage. he sweeps a forehand shot onto the net. Markstrom hold sit out at first. Neail is able to punch the rebound back on net. As Markstrom tries to hold it out but Kunitz is able to sneak his stick in the crease and pokes it under Markstrom and into the cage. Weaver gives a backhanded punch to Kunitz afterwards. A scrum ensues. Officials break it up. Malkin and Neal get assists. The Penguins' power play has scored in 10 consecutive games. The "Hey Song" is played. Panthers 1, Penguins 1.
7:24: Adams lifts a wrister from the left circle over the cage.
6:20: Malkin is on with Crosby and Kunitz. Off a pass from the left corner by Crosby, Malkin hammers a one-timer wide of the cage.
5:59: From behind the cage, Crosby deals a pass to Malkin in the right circle. Malkin puts a wrister on net which Markstrom rejects.
5:48: From the left wing corner, Crosby deals a pass to Martin in the left circle. Martin fire a one-timer which Markstrom eats up.
4:36: Dan Bylsma has his bingo ball roller out. Jeffrey is on with Cooke and Dupuis. Jeffrey flings a backhander on net from the right wing. Markstrom holds it out.
3:33: Crosby is back with Dupuis and Kunitz. From the right circle, Cros feeds a pass to Dupuis in the left circle. The puck hits a skate but Dupuis is able to steer it on net. Kunitz has a chance on the rebound but can't get a clean stick on it.
2:46: Malkin rams Skille from the side into the boards in front of the visiting penalty box. Both players hit the ice but appear fine. Skille gives Malkin a shove after the fact.
1:00: Tyler Kennedy has not recorded a shift since there was 12:24 remaining in this period.
0:00: End of period. Panthers 1, Penguins 1.
-That was more of the same that period but with a little bit more of an offensive threat from the Panthers. After playing mostly flat in the first period, the Panthers started the second with a strong offensive flurry.
-Markstrom continues to be the star of the game. He's seeing nearly everything. If not for a play which could have been blown dead by the officials, he still has a shutout.
-Bennett continues to look strong in his debut on the second line. He's showing strength and drive as he goes to the net.
-It looks like Kennedy has been benched. He's had a few sloppy plays with the puck and it appears the coaching staff is trying to send a message to him.
-Huberdeau looks like the real deal. He has a heavy shot and he's been Florida's most consistent threat tonight.
-The Penguisn control shots, 27-13.
-Huberdeau leads the game with five shots.
-Dupuis and Makin each lead the Penguins with four.
-Letang lead the game with 16:18 of ice time.
-Weaver leads the Panther with 14:57.
-Faceoffs are tied, 17-17.
-Sutter is 8 for 11 (73 percent).
-Huberdeau is 6 for 3 (67 percent).
-Dupuis leads the game with three blocked shots.
-None of the Panthers has more than one.
-Tonight's giveaway is a tablet cover:
18:55: Kennedy is back. Letang controls the puck at the right point and deals a pass to Kennedy rushing into the offensive zone. From above thright circle, he pumps a slapper on net. Markstrom fends it off.
18:45: The Panthers get a power play as Kennedy is called for slashing Skille. What an up and down sequence for him. Letang, Martin, Dupuis and Adams take the ice.
17:09: Weiss has a wrister blocked by Niskanen in the left circle.
17:00: Goc wires a wrister from the left circle which is blocked by Letang.
16:45: Off a feed from Huberdeau behind the net, Kopecky is denied point blank by Fleury. He pretty much shot that right into Fleury. The Kennedy penalty expires
15:11: Malkin races up the left wing boards while fighing off Gudbranson and puts a wrister on net. As Markstrom makes the save, Gudbranson shoves Makin who loses his balance. Malkin slams into the end boards back first. He on the ice in discomfort. Neal tries to fight Gudbranson but the offiicals hold them at bay. That was a clean hit by Gudbranson. Athletic trainer Chris Stewart attends to Makin who collects himself and skates to the bench under his own power. Malkin heads to the dressing room.
14:35: Kopecky sneaks a wrister on net from the left wing corner. Fleury holds it out while huggng his post. Kopeck pretty much spearks Fleury and shoves him into the net. Play is blown dead. Fleury looks like he wants to tomahawk Kopecky. Koepecky is led to the penalty for slashing Fleury. The Penguins get power play. Crosby, Kunitz, Neal Martin and Letang take the ice.
13:34: Off some heavy rotation, Crosby hammers a one-timer from center point wide of the cage.
13:27: From center point, Letang slides a pass to Neal in the right circle. Neal hammers a one-timer which Markstrom fight off.
13:11: Neal whips a one-timer on net from the slot but Markstrom fights it off.
12:30: As the Kopecky minor expires, Letang fires a wrister from the left half wall. Markstrom fights it off. kennedy has a chance on the rebound but punches it wide.
12:11: Matt Niskanen to the rescue. Letang holds the puck in at the right point and slides it to Niskanen on the left point. Niskanen cranks a one-timer which blows by Markstrom's glove hand. Not a great goal for Markstrom to give up especially considering his glove hand has been sharp all night. There wasn't even a screen. Letang gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-1.
10:20: Crosy glides up the left wing and lifts a backhander wide of the cage.
10:12: Letang chucks a wrister from the right point which hits something and appears to deflect off the near post.
9:43: Despres has a one-timer form center point blocked by Fleischmann.
8:11: From down low on the right wing, Crosby lifts a wrister into Markstrom which is fended off.
6:10: Sutter blocks a one-timer by Kovalev in the right circle.
6:02: A wrister by Fleischmann from the left point is eaten up by Fleury.
5:53: Kuba gets a shot on net from the right circle after a faceoff win. Fleury fights it off. Crosby is able to play the rebound out of danger.
5:30: Kuba smacks a slapper form the left point on net. Fleury battles it away
5:16: Off a four-on-two rush, Letang whips a wrister on net from the slot. No dice.
4:51: More pressure by the Penguins. Kennedy snaps off a wrister from the left circle. It hit something in front. Jeffrey tries to punch in the rebound but no dice.
4:45: Welcome back Dustin Jeffrey ... to the score sheet. After Cooke steals a puck in the slot, he turns ans deals a pass to Jeffrey to the other side of the crease. Jeffrey is able to poke it in behind an out of place Markstrom. What a play by Cooke. Cooke and Kennedy get assists. It's Jeffrey's first goal since Feb. 18, 2012. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 3-1.
3:45: After an icing, the Penguins call a time out to give their players a rest with the faceoff in their own zone.
2:06: A wrister by Shore is off the mark.
1:13: With an offensive zone faceoff, The Panthers call timeout to get organized. Markstrom is pulled for an extra attacker.
0:36: Kunitz has a chance at the open cage from the Florida blue line but shoots wide from the left wing.
0:16: Kulikov wires a wrister from the left circle on net. Fleury eats it up.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 3, Panthers 1.
-First things first, Evgeni Malkin's status: According to Dan Bylsma, Malkin is getting "further evaluated this evening. We'll know more tomorrow."
-If you didn't see the hit, here you go:
-Short of Malkin's parents, no one in their right minds should have a problem with that hit. Malkin shoots the puck and his finished off by Erik Gudbranson. Malkin happens to slam into the end boards and is injured. That occasionally happens in hockey.
-On the hit, Gudbranson said, "I just finished my check. You never want to see a guy go down. He’s in a vulnerable position but you can’t to pass up a hit like that. You never know. He goes around the net, guy gets the puck and passes it back door to him. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt on the play but it’s one that I’d take every time. "
-Regarding the game, the Penguins had a heck of a time trying to figure out Markstrom. Basically, they peppered him with shots all night until he started leaking a few in. They started to get bodies to the net which helped things too. The Penguins ran into a goaltender who was tuned in and just wore him down.
-The fact that the Penguins got all of their goals from secondary sources has to be very encouraging. Crosby's was held off teh scoreboard and Malkin missed most of the third period. A defenseman gets the game-winner and a role player appearing in only his fifth game of season secures the win with an insurance goal.
-The power play is humming along very nicely. It recorded a goal for the 10th consecutive game. It's staggering how different this unit is in comparison to that 4-1 home loss against the Islanders, Jan. 29.
-Beau Bennett looked like a nice fit in his first true game on the second line. He was strong ont he puck, battled in the high traffic areas and played at the pace Malkin and James Neal demand.
-We're not sure what to make out of Tyler Kennedy. He's was benched for most of the second period but was involved in the Penguins' offensive chances in the third period. No consistency with this guy.
-Jacob Markstrom was outstanding most of the night. Other than the Matt Niskanen goal, he was tuned in. He deserved a better fate tonight.
-The Penguins did get a break in the aftermath of the Gudbranson hit. Neal attacked Gudbranson but no penalty was called. The Penguins got a power-play shortly after that when Tomas Kopecky was called for slashing Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins didn't score with that power play but built up some momentum which led to Niskanen's game-winning goal. If Neal was penalized, perhaps this is a different game.
-What a complete game by Niskanen. He was physical in his own zone and had plenty of offensive chacnes including the game-winning goal. He's come so far since his debut with the Penguins.
-Marc-Andre Fleury has faced stiffer challenges in his career, but he was strong tonight. He seemed confident and kicked out a ton of safe rebounds.
-Jonathan Hudberdeau is the best rookie we've seen in person this season. He's strong on the puck. He goes to the high traffic areas and has a heavy shot. He looks very composed for a rookie.
-Crosby was shutout, but he was pretty strong tonight. He had plenty of offensive chances and several quality shots on net. He just ran into a goaltender who was seeing everything early on.
-The Panthers' penalty kill isn't setting any records by any means, but the Penguins' penalty kill cleanly turned away both of Florida's chances with the man advantage.
-The Penguins led in shots, 40-23.
-Huberdeau led the game with six shots.
-Crosby and Pascal Dupuis each led the Penguins with five.
-Kris Letang led the game with 26:44 of ice time.
-Brian Campbell led the Panthers with 22:53.
-Faceoffs were tied, 26-26 (50 percent).
-Sutter was 13 for 17 (76 percent).
-Marcel Goc was 8 for 15 (53 percent).
-Dupuis led the game with four blocked shots.
-Filip Kuba and Tyson Strachan each led the Panthers with two blocked shots.
-Neal moved past Duane Rupp for 80th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list. Both players have 104 points but Neal (53) has more goals than Rupp (21).