Florida Panthers left wing Jussi Jokinen shoots the winning shot during a shootout against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in Florida. The Panthers defeated the Penguins 2-1.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
SUNRISE, Fla. — Marc-Andre Fleury had faced Jussi Jokinen on breakaways countless times in practice and figured he had a pretty good idea of what to expect when they met in Round 5 of a shootout Monday night.
He was wrong.
Instead of seeing the move Jokinen, a former Penguin, showed him so often during workouts — and in games, for that matter — so many times, Fleury watched as Jokinen drifted, right to left, across the slot before flipping a forehand shot past him for the deciding goal in the Florida’s 2-1 victory at the BB&T Center.
“Sometimes, it’s tough when it’s a guy that you know,” Fleury said. “You know what he likes to do, and he didn’t do what he likes to do.”
The Penguins salvaged a point when left winger Chris Kunitz beat Florida goalie Al Montoya with a shot from above the right dot to tie the score, 1-1, at 16:41 of the third period.
Both teams had chances to win in overtime, but neither could capitalize, and the Penguins actually came within a save of picking up a second point during the shootout.
Sidney Crosby gave them a 1-0 lead in Round 1 of the shootout, and Fleury stopped Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck of the Panthers during the first two rounds.
But Nick Bjugstad, who had given Florida a 1-0 lead 7½ minutes into the game, beat Fleury in Round 3, and Montoya denied Kris Letang in the bottom half of the third to keep the shootout alive.
Florida’s Reilly Smith and Phil Kessel of the Penguins failed to score in Round 4, and Jokinen gave the Panthers the edge in Round 5. Montoya then sealed the victory by stopping Matt Cullen.
The Penguins, though, did not pin this loss on Fleury, who stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced in regulation and overtime.
“Our goaltender played great,’ Kunitz said. “We have to find a way to have more quality attempts.”
The loss dropped the Penguins’ record to 28-19-8. They are tied with Tampa Bay for the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins, who had been off since a 2-1 shootout victory Friday at Carolina, started slowly, and the Panthers made them pay when Bjugstad scored.
“At the beginning of the game, they definitely outplayed us,” Fleury said. “After that, though, once we got going, we didn’t give them too much.”
They didn’t get much, either. Montoya was outstanding, and his teammates limited the quality chances the Penguins were able to manufacture, even after they began to play with the urgency their situation demanded.
“I thought we did some good things,” Crosby said. “That’s hockey. Sometimes, you’re on the wrong side of things.
“We generated some chances, could easily have gotten more than one goal. Throughout the game, we had a number of chances to keep it from going [to overtime].”
The best of those might have come about two minutes into the third period, when Carl Hagelin had a short-handed breakaway, but was unable to beat Montoya.
“We couldn’t score,” Crosby said. “That happens sometimes. We take the point and make sure we’re better next game, find a way to get two.”
That’s not necessarily the math on which Fleury was focused after the game, however. Not when two of Florida’s final three shooters got pucks past him.
“We got a point,” Fleury said. “But, as a goalie, you always want to make the difference in the shootout. So, it was frustrating to not stop them.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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