3 Winners and 3 Losers from Penguins vs Panthers

The Penguins miraculously steal a point in the final minute, but once again can't seal the win
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The Pittsburgh Penguins lose 3-2 (SO) to the Florida Panthers

I feel like I've seen this exact game at least a thousand times this season, it featured all of the Penguins' hallmarks. They lost a lead, couldn't finish, had an ineffectual powerplay, got well-above average goaltending, tied the game in the final minute and lost extra time, the shootout in this case.

I feel like that, because I have seen this game before. Two weeks ago, the Penguins dropped back-to-back games just like this against the Canucks then the Hurricanes, games the Penguins tied in the final minute and lost in OT.

December 23rd against the Senators, same story but they tied the game with a whopping 2:26 left.

December 2nd versus a Flyers team they were desperately chasing, tied in the final minute, lost in the shootout.

You could applaud this team for stealing points in games they probably should lose, but it's the Penguins that put themselves into this situation. When the game is not at 5-on-5 this year, the Penguins are at a disadvantage. A team that controls 55% of the expected goals and has a team save percentage eleven points above league average (.910 vs .899), should not have to pray for a miracle in the final minute in hope of being granted half of one.

Winners: Fans without a rooting interest in either team

As far as relatively low event, low scoring games go, this was a fun game to watch.

The "Panthers want to beat Kris Letang to a pulp" saga was, while strange, great entertainment value. Sam Bennett and Anton Lundell each took confounding penalties against the Penguins' defenseman, trying to get even with him for a pretty innocuous collision with Panthers' captain Aleksander Barkov.

For a few years now, part of the Panthers' DNA has been the bite they bring to their games, be it Nick Cousins' antics or Matthew Tkachuk's existence. Part of that identity is that they take a lot of penalties. They are 6th in the league this season in powerplay opportunities against and were 3rd last year. Their snarl, particularly when not directed at a team you care about, makes them good heels for the league, bad guys that are fun to boo.

The last-minute tying goal obviously adds to the games allure, but there was an almost postseason like hostility to this game you don't see very often in January.

Loser: The Pens' Powerplay

Boy it stinks.

As always, it looked like there were chances, there was even a goal from Jake Guentzel, but when the team needed so badly to get a goal, the powerplay let them down time and time again.

The Panthers spend what felt like 86 of the games 65 minutes in the penalty box but it just wouldn't fall for the Pens.

They've tried doing things differently, they've tried keeping things the same, the powerplay is just broken; and it's worth asking if this coaching staff is capable of fixing it.

It took Dmitry Kulikov hitting the dusty trail to go get a new stick in order for the Pens to score. Not good.

Winners: Both Goaltenders

Where would this team be without Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic?

A gutter perhaps?

Ned was tremendous again tonight with the two goals against coming on a freak bounce and a one-timer by one of the hottest goal-scorers in the league.

The Penguins goalie made a few crucial saves to keep the game in reach when the Penguins were down in the 3rd. However, his magnum opus came in overtime as he flew out for a sprawling poke check on Brandon Montour as the Panthers d-man cut in on a breakaway. He struggled in the shootout but finished the game having stopped 29 of 31 Panthers shots.

Bobrovsky at the other end was just as strong, tormenting the Penguins for the second time this season and stopping a Malkin backhand shot with the butt-end of his stick as time expired in OT.

Both Penguin goals took tremendous passing plays to get the puck behind him.

Loser: Valtteri Puustinen

I'll put this right up top, I really like Puustinen and think he has the juice to be a good NHL player for a long time, but he was a non-factor tonight. He doesn't really click in the bottom two lines and doesn't really have much of a chance to move back up to Malkin's line with the way Drew O'Connor has been playing (who was good again tonight) and the return of Rickard Rakell.

Now Puustinen is not like Alex Nylander who cannot under really any circumstances play a grinder role, but that doesn't mean it's where the young Finn is most effective. I like that the Penguins gave Colin White a run with Malkin, but it didn't really work. I think Puustinen should be up there or at the very least not buried at the bottom of the lineup with Harkins and Carter as they try their hardest to make sure nothing happens at either end of the ice.

One thing to stay aware of when talking about Puustinen though: when Puustinen is in the bottom-six he'll always be the odd man out in terms of shifts and ice-time because he doesn't kill penalties. If he's on a 3rd line with O'Connor and Eller, he's going to lose a shift every time the Pens are on the kill. If you want Puustinen to play more, he almost needs to be in the top-six.

Winner: Evgeni Malkin

Malkin felt engaged throughout the game, both physically and offensively as he netted the game tying goal.

As I said, the Colin White experiment seems to have fallen through, he didn't really move the needle much in the search for Malkin wingers. Malkin accounted for the best xGF mark of any Penguins forward tonight at 5-on-5 and nearly ended the game with fractions of a second left in overtime.

The second pillar of the "big three" has gotten a lot of flak for his play this season after a scorching start, but he's quietly put together a nice little 4 game point streak.

Malkin has 15 points in the Penguins' last 16 games.

Put the own goal out of your mind for a second and look at the numbers. The man is on pace for 71(!) points as a second line center with a pitiful powerplay. There aren't many teams that have that level of player, especially not one that's 37, give the guy a break!

Loser: Bryan Rust

There are really two types of Bryan Rust games: the kind where he has a bunch of chances and scores, and the kind where he has a bunch of chances and doesn't score. Tonight was the latter.

Rust had 4 shots on goal and two assists but he's here more for what he could/should have had. Multiple times Rust had grade-A chances and just could not finish. He often finds himself on stretches like this, he's a streaky player, and that leads to some inconsistency in production even on a year-to-year basis (look at last year).

While he's still putting up plenty of assists (now 6 in 10 games since returning from injury), Rust has only managed one goal in in his last 14 games. He's shooting ice cold right now, it should turn around, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Gustav Forsling, Kevin Stenlund, Bryan Rust
Florida Panthers v Pittsburgh Penguins / Pamela Smith/GettyImages