It was a back-and-forth game between the Penguins and Rangers, but a two goal third period helped Pittsburgh prevail 5-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.
The Pens‘ first goal came as a result of a J.T. Miller holding penalty at the 11:18 mark, as Patric Hornqvist scored 38 seconds later, assisted by Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. But, the Rangers would enter the intermission tied as Chris Kreider’s tip-in at the 18:06 mark, assisted by Second Star of the Game Derek Stepan (his 21st helper of the season) and Kevin Klein, set the score at one-all.
7:30 after resuming play, First Star Conor Sheary tipped-in Justin Schultz’ initial shot, giving him his ninth helper of the season, to give the Pens a 2-1 lead that lasted only 1:29 before Derick Brassard leveled the game yet again, assisted by Keith Yandle (his 35th helper of the season) and Stepan. Pittsburgh earned their third lead of the afternoon with Sheary’s second goal of the period, and fifth of the season, at the 15:55 mark, assisted by Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr. That lead held into the second intermission.
For the third time in the game, the Blueshirts scored a leveler, this time by Ryan McDonagh, who was assisted by Jesper Fast and Miller (his 18th helper of the season) at the 5:04 mark of the third period. Pittsburgh‘s game-winner found the back of the net with 8:51 remaining in regulation, scored by Third Star Matt Cullen, who was assisted by Dominik Simon and Brian Dumoulin (his 15th helper of the season). Crosby provided the lone insurance goal on an empty net (his 29th tally of the season) with only 39 seconds remaining, assisted by Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust.
Marc-Andre Fleury earns the win after saving 24 of 27 shots faced (88.9%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss, saving 28 of 32 (87.5%).
With the second straight road victory, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 66-39-16, still favoring the home sides by 26 points over the roadies.
We’ve got six games to watch this evening, so get excited! The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with Florida visiting the New York Islanders, followed an hour later by Los Angeles at Chicago. 9 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (St. Louis at Calgary and Nashville at Edmonton), and this evening’s co-nightcaps trail an hour later (Winnipeg at Vancouver and New Jersey at Anaheim).
None of tonight’s games are between division rivals, but two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Florida at New York and Los Angeles at Chicago).
Although this evening will be Kyle Palmieri’s first visit back to Anaheim since since being traded to New Jersey this off-season, the most important game this evening is between the Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders.
Tonight’s game will be Florida‘s eighth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-2-1 record. Their most recent featured game was their 5-4 overtime loss on home ice to the Bruins exactly a week ago. New York has been featured five times before tonight’s game, and own a 1-3-1 record in such contests, with their most recent occurring February 18, a 3-2 overtime loss on home ice to the Capitals.
The 38-21-9 Florida Panthers currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. To get to that position, they’ve played the sixth best defense, paired with the eighth best offense, making them a formidable foe.
Led by Dmitry Kulikov’s 100 blocks, the Panthers have allowed only 1999 shots to reach 29-16-6 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve saved a solid 92.1% for only 167 goals against, the sixth fewest in the league. Although a step back for the Panthers, the penalty kill still ranks on the better side of the league average, as they neutralize 81.5% of their infractions for 42 power play goals against, the 12th best rate in the NHL.
The offense is only a step behind, as although they’ve fired only 1926 shots, a cool 9.6% have found the back of the net for 192 goals, the eighth most in the league. The biggest hole for Florida has been their power play, which seems to be a trend for teams from the Sunshine State. The Panthers have capitalized on only 16.67% of opportunities for 39 power play goals (led by Aleksander Barkov’s nine extra man tallies), the sixth worst rate in the NHL.
Florida is currently riding a two game winning streak, with their most recent being their 5-4 shootout victory over the Flyers on Saturday. Should they keep their winning ways going tonight, or even if they lose in overtime, they will succeed Boston for the Atlantic Division lead, but a regulation loss would cause the Panthers to fall into third in the division to their in-state rivals.
The 37-21-8 New York Islanders currently occupy third in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’ve gotten to that position by playing the fifth best defense, paired with the ninth best offense.
Even with injured Calvin de Haan’s 145 blocks, the Isles have allowed 1993 shots to reach 18-7-4 Thomas Greiss and co., of which they’ve saved a great 92.3% for only 166 goals against, the fifth fewest in the league. That defense has been partially led by an incredible penalty kill that ranks third best in the league, neutralizing 85.42% of opposing opportunities for only 28 power play goals against (13 fewer than the league average). Further improving on that stat, New York has also scored six shorthanded goals, one more than the league average.
Just like the Panthers, New York‘s offense is only a step behind. Led by John Tavares’ 207 shots, the Islanders have fired the puck 1991 times, with 9.3% finding the back of the net for 190 goals (led by Tavares’ 26 tallies, the ninth most in the league. New York‘s power play has also been decent, successful on 20% of attempts for 38 power play goals, the 11th best rate in the NHL.
New York is currently riding a two game losing skid, with their most recent being a 3-1 loss in Boston on Saturday. A win tonight is important for the Isles, as it would not only pull them within a point of their crosstown rivals in second place, but it would also extend their lead over Pittsburgh to two points for third.
Florida has already won the season series 2-0-0, but would like to earn the sweep with a win this evening. Their most recent meeting was December 15, a 5-1 Panthers victory in New York.
Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Brian Campbell (+22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Luongo (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league] and 29 wins [tied for sixth most in the league]) & New York‘s Greiss (.928 save percentage [tied for second best in the league] and 2.26 GAA [eighth best in the league]).
Florida may have had the upper hand so far this season over the Islanders, but I’m feeling a New York winner this evening. Although the power play isn’t necessarily important to the Panthers‘ success, I think New York‘s ability to quickly neutralize any threat could lead to some excitement, maybe even a shorty.