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Penguins' struggles on road persist

Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Penguins will play their next three games at home, which will be a welcome change.

Reaching their defensive level of play from earlier in the season wouldn't be a bad thing, either.

Florida's Stephen Weiss scored with 3:30 remaining to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory, sending the Penguins to their fourth loss in their past five road games.

A late bench penalty for having too many men on the ice led to the game-winning goal, which was Florida's second of the evening with a man advantage.

Coach Dan Bylsma said such a mental mistake -- and there were many on this evening -- is inexcusable.

"The standard with which we need to play in -- that's from a physical and mental standpoint -- is imperative and it was not there," Bylsma said.

Although the Penguins are off to a strong start this season, their play in the defensive zone has been sketchy for the past two weeks. Center Jordan Staal, who was easily his team's best player and scored his 10th goal of the season to even the game in the second period, said the Penguins (11-6-3, 25 points) simply need to concentrate more defensively.

"A lot of mistakes tonight," Staal said. "In our own end, we're throwing the puck away. We're not making strong plays out of the zone. We're just chipping it and hoping it will get out, hoping someone else will get it out instead of taking it out yourself."

Receiving a call for having too many men on the ice is rare so late in a tie game, but the Penguins weren't complaining about being hit with the penalty.

"It was pretty obvious," Staal said.

Weiss' game-winner came after a frantic battle in front of the Penguins' net. Left wing Kris Versteeg was stopped by goalie Brent Johnson, who made 28 saves. But Johnson was unable to cover the puck moments after defenseman Paul Martin couldn't to clear it out of danger.

Weiss finally willed the puck into the net.

"I had no idea where it was," Johnson said. "I thought the guy kicked it in. That's the last time I saw it. It must have just laid there and as I was falling back, I must have knocked it in with my glove. It's hard to work that hard for that long and not win."

The Penguins may have worked hard, but they were far from perfect.

They allowed defenseman Brian Campbell to skate untouched through the slot in the first period, and he made no mistake, receiving a Versteeg pass and scoring to counter left wing Chris Kunitz's seventh goal and tie the game.

In the second period, left wing Tomas Fleischmann was permitted easy access into the slot and ripped a shot past Johnson to make it 2-1.

Staal's sublime work in the second period evened the game and gave the Penguins' temporary momentum. Florida, though, took started to take control late in the third and used the Penguins' mental mistake to their advantage.

"We had the momentum at the end of the second period," Staal said. "But the mistakes just crept back into our game. Just a lot of mistakes."

The mistakes added up to the Penguins failing to earn a point on their Florida road trip. They return to action Monday at home against the New York Islanders.




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