The Penguins (13-7-0) could not overcome the four power play goals scored off of nine penalties, with the Panthers’ Tomas Kopecky finishing with five points and a hat trick to go along with Tomas Fleischmann’s three points. Sidney Crosby and James Neal finished with two points apiece.
A docile crowd greeted the Penguins at the start of the game. The Pens received an early scoring opportunity two minutes in on a hooking call against the Panther’s Shawn Matthias, but Pittsburgh failed to capitalize. A passive first period went by with few scoring opportunities. The Penguins best chance came on a beautiful pass by Kris Letang that Dustin Jeffrey could not put away. After a boarding penalty on the Pens’ Tyler Kennedy, the Panthers’ Kopecky scored on assists by Brain Campbell and Dmitry Kulikov. The Penguins woke up after the goal with a flurry of action, but Pittsburgh mustered only eight shots by the end of the period.
A wild second period started out in the Penguins favor as Neal scored with a spectacular wrist shot on assists from Crosby and Chris Kunitz. However, a combination of poor decisions and emotional reactions from the Penguins handed the Panthers three consecutive power plays and the home team cashed in all three. Pittsburgh committed eight penalties for a total of 16 minutes in the period.
Florida’s Kopecky added a second goal on assists from Fleischmann and Campbell; Campbell scored on assists from Dmitry Kulikov and Drew Shore; and Marcel Goc scored on assists from Kopecky and Fleishmann.
After the Goc goal, Pens’ head coach Dan Bylsma pulled goalie Tomas Vokoun for Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins rallied with a goal from Jeffrey on assists by Orpik and rookie Beau Bennett, and after a penalty kill, the Pens scored again on a Paul Martin goal with an assist from Neal. Pittsburgh ended the period with a power play goal from Kunitz on an assist from Crosby to tie the game. The Penguins picked up the shooting with 11 shots in the period.
Florida came out of the break having pulled goalie Jose Theodore in favor of Scott Clemmensen. The Panthers took an early tripping penalty on Fleischmann, but the Penguins couldn’t convert. Florida’s Fleischmann came out of the penalty box and started a break-away before scoring on an assist from Jerrod Smithson. Pittsburgh spent most of third period in the Panther’s defensive zone and peppered the goal with 15 shots, but they couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Pens pulled the goalie, but a ricochet clearance tumbled in for Kopecky to complete the hat trick and seal the game.
Vokoun saved 18 of 22 shots in taking the loss to fall to 3-4-0 on the year. Fleury stepped in to save 12 of 13 shots.
The Penguins travel to Carolina on Thursday to face the Hurricanes and former Pens’ star Jordan Staal.