Fleury gave up three early goals in the first period before he was pulled to start the second
Nope, not tonight.
The Penguins fell to the Florida Panthers Thursday night in a 5-2 upset loss that did nothing more than shrink the Penguins' Conference and Division lead. It's games like this that make us hit the five Ws and an H.
WHAT went wrong? (aside form everything)
Marc-Andre Fleury's appearance was short-stayed, as three of the nineteen first period shots lit the lamp to give Florida a commanding 3-1 lead heading into the second.
Ty Conklin was given the nod following MAF's lackluster performance and kept the team within striking distance. However, the Penguins were unable to find the net on superb even strength opportunities and similarly did nothing with the man advantage.
WHEN could it have changed?
Ryan Whitney easily had three opportunities to net goals tonight and choked on each and every one of them. Malkin seemed a bit shaky tonight and Sykora was getting completely mobbed on the ice. Crosby was on the receiving end of some fine passes from Pascal Dupuis but was just as easily stopped by Florida's Craig Anderson.
Craig Anderson. If you've never heard of him then don't worry, you're not alone. Up until three Florida Panthers' wins ago no one had any idea who this guy was. Yet apparently he set a new NHL record with two consecutive shutouts and the stopping of 105 consecutive shots. Does this mean an outs for Vokoun? Probably not. For all intensive purposes, Anderson could very well just be Florida's version of Ty Conklin.
WHERE does this leave the Penguins?
Luckily tonight's loss didn't take the Penguins out of any contention for Division or Conference leads. What it did do was keep the gap close between them and the Devils in the Atlantic (one point) and shorten the gap between Pitt and Montreal in the Conference (tied).
HOW can Pitt rebound?
That's fairly simple - win. When teams head into the home stretch at this point you have to hold back from saying every game is a must-win situation. While somewhat true, it's not completely necessary for the Penguins to make the playoffs. There are also some mixed views as to whether it's good to see a team head into the playoffs strong (IE: 1990s-era Penguins) or have them finish moderately placed in the Division and kick it into high gear in the playoffs (IE: 2005 Oilers). You always have the Devils of last year winning 16-straight and ultimately falling off in the postseason. It truly is anyone's game at any time.
Which finally leads us to the head-smacking...
WHY did this happen?
Good question. Hindsight is always 20/20, and as such you can really find anything you want as the reason for losing. You can talk about how Ty Conklin's career record against Florida is 5-0-0. You can talk about how Pitt was 3-0 so far this season and may have rolled in to Florida a little cocky knowing this. Perhaps you can blame Therrien for starting Fleury despite rumors of him "playing through" some soreness. Hell, why not blame the retirees in Florida for pretending to care about a team that may very well manage to slip into the playoffs before all is said and done?
You really can blame anyone.
Pitt wraps up the road trip in DC on Sunday against the Caps. Puck drops at 12:30 on NBC.
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