Panthers’ overtime goal sends Penguins to 3rd straight loss |
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Jonathan Bombulie

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Penguins provided a lesson Thursday night that could come in handy as the frenzy that surrounds the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline builds.

Two players the Penguins acquired in midseason trades, Jared McCann and Marcus Pettersson, scored important goals. Without further contributions from the players who have been here all year, however, it didn’t amount to much.

Mike Matheson shoveled in a Jonathan Huberdeau pass with 45.6 seconds left in overtime to give the Florida Panthers a 3-2 victory. The Penguins have lost three in a row and five of their last seven.

“Real disappointed right now,” Pettersson said. “Bittersweet taste in our mouth.”

The Penguins came into the game with their grasp on an Eastern Conference playoff berth growing more precarious by the day. As such, they were in no position to turn up their noses at the point they earned for getting the game to overtime.

“It’s a big point,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “That’s what I told the guys afterwards. It’s a big point.”

Still, there are a few aspects of Thursday’s loss that undoubtedly will sting until the puck drops Saturday night in Tampa.

First, it was another overtime loss. The Penguins are 5-7 in games decided past regulation this season.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t earn the extra (point) in overtime because we’re capable in that situation,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got what we think are real good personnel for three-on-three overtime.”

Second, the Penguins were outplayed on special teams.

Florida’s first goal came with five seconds left in a power play, and its second came nine seconds after another advantage ended.

On the first, Evgenii Dadonov backhanded in the rebound of an errant Matheson shot that took a big bounce off the end boards.

The second came after a clearing attempt and blocked shot by Pettersson both failed to leave the zone, and Kris Letang fell to the ice trying to grab a loose puck. Aleksander Barkov fed Colton Sceviour for a goal from the top of the crease.

The Penguins, conversely, went 0 for 3 on the power play, including 53 seconds of five-on-three advantage time in the second period. They are 1 for 18 over their past seven games.

“We’ve got to execute,” said Sidney Crosby, who moved into a tie with Mario Lemieux atop the franchise’s all-time games played list with 915. “That’s what it comes down to. For whatever reason, we’re not executing.”

Sullivan took it one step further.

“It starts off the faceoff,” Sullivan said. “There’s a 50-50 puck, and we don’t compete hard enough on it, and that’s where it starts. Now we lose 20, 25 seconds of the five-on-three going 200 feet to get the puck.”

The Penguins struck once on special teams as well. Letang made a long lead pass to spring McCann and Bryan Rust for a short-handed two-on-one break. McCann kept the puck himself and beat goalie Robero Luongo far side to make it 1-1 in the second period.

The most encouraging development for the Penguins was probably the five-on-five goal they scored.

Not only did Pettersson’s shot from the left point erase a 2-1 deficit midway through the third period, it also came with traffic in front of Luongo — namely, a Jake Guentzel screen. That’s something the Penguins have been pining for lately.

“I think we’ve had the net presence pretty good the last few games. Us D men, we’ve got to get it there,” Pettersson said. “If he sees it, hopefully it’s a rebound and we’re right there. If he doesn’t see it, he’s going to have a tough time saving it.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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