When you play 82 games, you’re going to have a few like that.
Drew Shore scored twice and Jesse Winchester had three primary assists as the Florida Panthers buried the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 on Monday night, handing the home team its first loss at Consol Energy Center since Nov. 13.
It was also the first regulation defeat of 2014 for the sloppy Penguins, who looked every bit like a team that hadn’t played in nearly a week. Pittsburgh (34-13-2, 70 points) stretched its franchise-best home winning streak to 13 games last Wednesday against Washington, but had sat out since then in a scheduling quirk.
The time off helped James Neal, Paul Martin, Chuck Kobasew and Jayson Megna all return to the ice from injuries, but the first-place Penguins looked a step behind the frisky Panthers (19-23-7, 45 points) for most of the night. Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen stopped 35 shots, but goaltending was hardly the story in one of the Penguins’ poorest performances in recent memory.
Shore scored a shorthanded goal late in the first period to nudge Florida ahead, then he added another – just his third of the season – at 13:34 of the second to give the visitors a two-goal edge entering the third. On his second of the night, Shore buried Winchester’s nifty feed from behind Marc-Andre Fleury‘s net.
Dmitry Kulikov made it 3-0 a little more than a minute into the final frame, out-muscling Martin to a wild end-board carom, but Matt Niskanen rammed home a slap shot at 5:11 to put the Pens on the board. Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin earned assists on the goal that the home crowd hoped would throw the result into doubt.
It did for a while, at least until Jonathan Huberdeau was credited with the Panthers’ fourth goal with 6:10 to play. Nick Bjugstad‘s jam shot rattled into the net off Huberdeau’s leg; following a lengthy video review, the goal was upheld as legal. Shawn Matthias added another 12 seconds after the ensuing faceoff, with Winchester earning his third helper on Mattias’ power move down the left wing.
Not only did the loss end the Penguins’ win streak at Consol, it also toppled Sidney Crosby‘s 17-game point run on home ice, which was the longest in the NHL. The league’s leading scorer was on the ice for three Panthers goals and took two penalties late as frustration set in.
Following what was just the Penguins’ fourth loss in 24 home games – and the Panthers’ first win in Pittsburgh since 2009 – the quote of the night came from Niskanen.
“That can’t happen,” he said. “We were just awful…we weren’t hungry. Bad execution, bad work ethic. They came in and beat the crap out of us.”
Pittsburgh will get back to game action much quicker than the last time, as Montreal comes to town Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. faceoff.