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Florida Panthers GameDay

Steal City: Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Florida Panthers 6 (OT)

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The Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins met up Tuesday night in a key matchup between a pair of teams competing for one spot in the playoffs. 

But this one certainly did not feel like a postseason game.

In arena football, perhaps, but not the NHL.

We’ll get to the particulars below, but it is hard to sum up this crazy game.

Here we go: Carter Verhaeghe’s second goal of the night tied the score at 6 with 2:32 remaining before Kris Letang — fresh off the IR — scored the Penguins’ third power play goal of the night to give the Penguins a 7-6 overtime win.

”You want it so bad for them because they had nothing left,’’ said coach Paul Maurice, whose team played in New York the night before. “They gave everything they had, each guy had a piece of the game where he tried to make an impact. Tough way to lose a game. And it’s over.

“We’re so much different than we were a month ago. They rallied around each other, battled. To get a point on the road in the circumstances we are in, couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Florida Panthers came into the night three points back of the Penguins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida is now four points behind both the Penguins and Washington in the wild card race with Buffalo a point ahead.

Both teams had issues in goal with Alex Lyon surprisingly getting the start over Spencer Knight after starting Monday night — and giving up five goals to the Rangers.

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Pittsburgh, meanwhile, said after the morning skate that Tristan Jarry would start Tuesday night. But he was not present in warmups and was scratched — leaving the Penguins with the arena’s emergency backup as their actual backup.

Then the game started.

The two teams combined for six goals in the first period — with both teams scoring a pair of goals within 90 seconds of one another — before things settled down a bit.

Yeah, a bit.

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After both teams scored a goal in the second, the two teams combined for four in the third before Letang won it in overtime.

The Panthers ended up getting another power play goal (Matthew Tkachuk) as well as one shorthanded (Aaron Ekblad) in a wild game in downtown Pittsburgh.

There was not much defense being played in front of these two backup goalies, either.

Pittsburgh ended the night with 49 shots on goal and 91 attempted shots; Florida went for 39/69.

Florida got two goals from Verhaeghe as well as single markers from Sam Reinhart, Tkachuk, Ekblad and Colin White.

Nice night for White who not only got in after being a healthy scratch for the past five games, but got his first goal since Nov. 20 and his first point since Dec. 11.

The Panthers drop to 1-6 in overtime this season as the Penguins improved to 4-8.

THE GOALS OF THE GAME

  • Panthers 1, Penguins 0 (6:42, 1st): Sam Reinhart took a rebound off a shot from Aaron Ekblad off the skate, controlled it and teed off. Fore!  
  • Panthers 2, Penguins 0 (7:43, 1st): The Florida power play stays lit as Matthew Tkachuk gets one past Casey DeSmith off a Brandon Montour rebound.
  • Panthers 2, Penguins 1 (10:56, 1st): Rickard Rakell gets in front and puts it past Alex Lyon to get the Pens on the board. Hold on.
  • Penguins 2, Panthers 2 (11:56, 1st): Danton Heinen cashes in on a rebound so hot-and-juicy, Wendy’s would have slapped a slice of American cheese on it.
  • Penguins 3, Panthers 2 (17:14, 1st): Kris Letang was activated off IR after missing 11 games and deflects a shot from 20 feet out that Lyon would love to have back.
  • Panthers 3, Penguins 3 (19:19, 1st): Carter Verhaeghe gets in on the fun, taking a sweet dish from Ekblad to go on a breakaway. DeSmith comes out and regrets it almost immediately.
  • Panthers 4, Penguins 3 (10:34, 2nd): Tkachuk picked off the puck at center ice, fed it to Reinhart who hit Ekblad in stride as No. 5 got Florida’s third shorthanded goal of the season.
  • Penguins 4, Panthers 4 (19:19, 2nd): It was deja-vu as Sidney Crosby scores at the same point of the second as Verhaeghe did in the first — almost on the same type of breakaway. Only Crosby split Ekblad and Gus Forsling as he got the puck at the line and backhanded one past Lyon.
  • Panthers 5, Penguins 4 (4:10, 3rd): Colin White was back in the lineup after being scratched in the past five and scores his first goal since Nov. 20. Nick Cousins fed him, White drove the slot and scored. Crazy game, this one.
  • Penguins 5, Panthers 5 (10:29, 3rd): Lyon went down on the ice, the Panthers could not clear a loose puck and Drew O’Connor knocked it in.
  • Penguins 6, Panthers 5 (14:30, 3rd): Evgeni Malkin, moments after sending Lyon’s stick up the ice and getting away with it, send a laser from the top of the right circle on the power play to give Pittsburgh the lead back.
  • Panthers 6, Penguins 6 (17:28, 3rd): Verhaeghe with a highlight reel goal ties the score as he flew toward the net, misplayed the puck but was able to stop on a dime and tap the puck into the net.
  • Penguins 7, Panthers 6 (4:06, OT): Letang gets another one on the power play to end it. He ends the night with two goals and four points. Nice return.

GOALIE ISSUES FOR BOTH

So, here’s what we know about the goalie situation.

First, for the Florida Panthers: Knight was supposed to start on Tuesday, but in his pregame availability, Maurice would not confirm his goalie saying it would be decided in warmups.

Lyon led the Panthers out and Knight did take part in the warmup but reportedly did not do a lot.

Why he did not play is not known — but he was not on the bench for much (if any) of the game which would lead one to think he was sick.

Maurice mentioned that White was sick on Monday and perhaps that was the issue.

”Spencer wasn’t ready to go,’’ Maurice said afterward without going any deeper.

As for the Penguins, Jarry was announced as the starter on Tuesday morning but was likely not even in the building as did not warmup and was scratched.

The Penguins said before the game that Jarry was hurt.

That left the backup as the emergency goalie Mike Chiasson — who, per Pittsburgh Hockey Now — is a goalie coach at the team practice facility and the Penguins’ youth hockey manager.

Thing is, if Lyon was hurt and Knight could not go, the Panthers would have had dibs on Chiasson as their No. 3 goalie.

Could have been even stranger.

BARKOV FEVER: CATCH IT!

Sasha Barkov now has a nine-game scoring streak which is not only the longest by a Florida player this season but ties the longest of his career.

Barkov had a point in nine straight games from March 24-April 9, 2016.

In his nine-game streak, Barkov has four goals and 13 points.

POWER STATION

Remember when the Panthers’ power play stunk?

Pepperidge Farms may remember, but that seems like ancient history.

After scoring on its first kick at the man advantage, the Panthers extended their power play streak to five games and was scoring at close to a 50 percent clip since Jan. 3 (16-for-35).

The Panthers did go 0-for-2 with the advantage after that.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, went 3-for-5 on the power play as it cashed in on its final three tries including in overtime as Brandon Montour was in the box.

SWAGIEUX TIME, AGAIN

Carter Verhaeghe now has a six-game scoring streak which extended the longest point streak of his career.

Verhaeghe has 25 goals this season and five goals in those six games.

Last season in 78 games, Verhaeghe set a career high with 24 goals.

So this is officially a career year for Verhaeghe.

GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1. Kris Letang, Pittsburgh (2 goals, 2 assists)

2. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida (2 goals)

3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (goal, assist)

PANTHERS ON DECK

LOS ANGELES KINGS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Los Angeles won 2-0
  • This season — Los Angeles leads 1-0: Kings 5, Panthers 4 (Nov. 5)
  • All-time regular season series: Los Angeles leads 24-14-0, 3 ties

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