The Pittsburgh Penguins found their blueprint — sort of — and will be looking for more of the same Tuesday when the Florida Panthers visit.
The Penguins, 4-2-2 in their past eight games, are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss on Sunday at New Jersey where nearly everything went right except the outcome. Pittsburgh controlled play and held the Devils at bay, including giving up just two shots in the second period.
“I think if we continue to play with that kind of mindset, that kind of aggressiveness, then over time it’s going to give us a chance to win,” said Pittsburgh center and captain Sidney Crosby, who scored his team-leading 22nd goal in that game.
“The challenge is doing it consistently. We’ve got to learn from it and bring a similar game and find a way to get two points.”
That would take a little more of a finishing touch on offense.
It would also behoove Pittsburgh to either secure wins in regulation or figure out how to win in overtime. The loss to New Jersey left the team 2-8 in overtime despite seemingly having the type of talent that would lend itself to the telltale frenetic pace and offensive chances.
“That’s an area that’s been a point of emphasis for us since the start of training camp, and we’re not having success in overtime,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, adding that one problem has been less-than-crisp line changes.
That’s what happened against the Devils, when Marcus Pettersson thought he scored the winner in overtime for Pittsburgh, but he had jumped off the bench early, leading to a penalty. New Jersey scored on its ensuing power play.
Pittsburgh won 4-2 at Florida on Dec. 15, a game that capped up a seven-game winning streak. The Penguins are 5-7-4 since.
The Panthers were on a 7-2-1 roll and had a five-game point streak before Monday, when they fell 6-2 to the host New York Rangers.
“Over the last three weeks we’ve been able to find ways to win hockey games and get points,” Florida defenseman Marc Staal told Bally Sports Florida. “It’s been a tough road, a lot of travel, but I’ve liked our character. I’ve liked our push.”
Not only are the Panthers set to complete a set of back-to-back games on Tuesday, but they also are entering their ninth road game of the month (4-3-1).
“In January, we just started playing harder,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s as simple as that. … Everything is getting better.”
Even in the loss to the Rangers, the Panthers had a 35-26 shot advantage and scored on one of their two power plays.
“I thought we had the upper hand, to be honest, most of the game,” Florida defenseman Brandon Montour said after he extended his point streak to six games with his career-high 32nd assist.
Much like Pittsburgh in its game at New Jersey.
“(Tuesday) is important,” Montour said. “We’re close in the standings, and every game’s important from here on out. We’re playing hard. We’re attentive to each shift. We do that, we should be good.”
Panthers forward Sam Bennett left the Monday game after going into the boards skates-first. Maurice said Bennett probably would be out Tuesday.