National Hockey League
Panthers-Penguins Preview
National Hockey League

Panthers-Penguins Preview

Published Oct. 19, 2015 10:27 p.m. ET

Adding Phil Kessel alongside the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin figured to make the Pittsburgh Penguins one of the league's top offensive clubs.

In reality, they've struggled to score.

Pittsburgh will try to get untracked Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.

The Penguins (2-3-0) enter the fourth game on this season-high five-game homestand with back-to-back victories over Ottawa and Toronto, but remain underwhelming on the offensive end. They're averaging 1.4 goals, down significantly from a 2.7 mark a season ago.


An anemic power play has been a big part of Pittsburgh's struggles. The Penguins are one of two teams, along with Anaheim, yet to score on the power play despite having the advantage 17 times. They squandered five chances in Saturday's 2-1 win against the Maple Leafs.

Last season, Pittsburgh's 19.3 percent success rate ranked 10th in the league, and it's two seasons removed from scoring on a league-best 23.4 percent of its power plays.

"We have to get our power play in sync," coach Mike Johnston said. "We know that and we're looking at all options."

Crosby is yet to record a point despite playing the third-most minutes on the team. He ranks fifth in league history with 1.4 points per game and had never gone more than one game without a point to begin a season.

Kessel has also had a slow start for his new team with one goal and one assist, somewhat underwhelming for a player who recorded 0.9 points per game over the previous seven seasons and has been slotted on Pittsburgh's top line with Crosby and Malkin.

The Penguins' average shot differential of plus-5.0 is one of the league's best, and they're registering 33.4 shots per game.

"We get chances, we just have to start scoring," Kessel said. "It will come."

Florida (3-2-0) has given up three power-play goals on 19 opportunities and has had some success on the advantage itself, scoring five of 22 times.

The Panthers' top line has fared much better than Pittsburgh's, with Jaromir Jagr and Aleksander Barkov combining for seven goals, while Jonathan Huberdeau has two assists. Jagr, who recorded 1,079 points in 806 games for the Penguins from 1990-01, has seven points in his last nine trips to Pittsburgh.

The Panthers blew a 2-0 lead in Saturday's 4-2 home loss to Dallas, getting outshot 32-18 over the final 40 minutes.

"We let them back in it," coach Gerard Gallant said. "For the most part of the game, they were the better team. They deserved to win."

On the second line, Brandon Pirri has flipped last season's script, tying for the team lead with three assists compared to one goal. He had 22 goals and two assists in 49 games in 2014-15, becoming the first player with at least 20 goals and three assists or fewer since three players in 1925-26.

"I'd have to be doing something wrong if I put up two assists this year again," he told the team's official website. "Am I surprised I've got three assists so far? No."

These clubs have split the last eight meetings, but Florida has lost 10 of its last 11 visits to Consol Energy Center.


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