Preview: Panthers begin road trip with a visit to surging Penguins
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Coverage begins at 7 p.m.
With their winning streak stopped at eight games Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins are ready to start a new one when they host the Florida Panthers at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh (23-13-6, 52 points) thrust itself into contention for the Metropolitan Division title during the streak and outscored opponents 32-9 before blowing a two-goal lead and, later, a one-goal lead in a 5-3 loss to Chicago.
Tuesday’s game will be the Penguins’ final home game for nearly three weeks. They head out on a West Coast trip, followed by their bye week, followed by All-Star weekend.
“We just have to regroup” Pittsburgh center Derick Brassard told the media following the loss to the Blackhawks, a game in which he scored. “We’ve been doing some really good things. We have to remember that. It’s a big game just before we’re leaving for two or three weeks, and we just have to get back on track.”
On Sunday, Chicago scored one power-play goal plus two other goals just a few seconds after a power play expired, essentially going 3-for-3. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was critical of some of the penalties his team took.
“The stick infractions when they’re 150 feet from your net are ones that are avoidable,” Sullivan told reporters. “We’ve been pretty good as far as our discipline is concerned, and sometimes when you’re in the heat of the battle and you’re competing on pucks that’s going to happen on occasion.
“As long as it’s not something that becomes habit we’ll live with it, but certainly when you’re taking penalties that far away from your net it’s something that you don’t want to do on a consistent basis.”
Florida (17-16-7, 41 points) has lost two in a row following a 6-2 stretch and on Tuesday opens a five-game road trip that includes games in Western Canada.
“I don’t know if we’re trying to do too much or if we do too little,” Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle recently said. “We’ve got to find that happy medium of just really dialing in on what the coaches tell us to do. Obviously, it’s a work in progress, but we’ve got to continue to work at it.”
Saturday in a 4-3 overtime loss at home against Columbus, a Florida turnover led to a Blue Jackets goal that gave them Columbus a 3-2 lead seven minutes into the third period. The Panthers managed to tie it 11 minutes later, but Seth Jones scored in the first minute of overtime.
“The one big mistake keeps haunting us,” Florida coach Bob Boughner told reporters. We’ve got to get better at (not doing) that.”
Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky was the winning goaltender Saturday, and reports are swirling that Florida might look into trading for the veteran goalie, who can become a free agent after the season. The Panthers have an even more veteran goalie, Roberto Luongo, who is expected to start Tuesday against Pittsburgh after James Reimer played against Columbus.
Luongo, 39, played Thursday in a 4-3 loss to Buffalo.
“With the schedule we have coming up, I think it’s important we’re rested in the goaltending department and (Luongo) can go into the road trip fresh,” Boughner said. “If (Luongo) is being honest with himself, and he always is, he is not overly happy with his past couple of games. … We know when (Luongo) goes back in, he’ll find his game like he always does. He has been one of the most consistent goalies in the league over the past 20 years. That’s not going to change.”