The Panthers played the Penguins Tuesday in a game so full of wacky moments, just when you thought it was over, it wasn’t.
But then it was.
Gerard Gallant’s last-ditch video challenge on Evgeni Malkin’s overtime goal didn’t work and Pittsburgh finally got to celebrate a 3-2 victory at Consol Center.
Gallant, who had a goal taken away via video earlier, wasn’t as upset about his final challenge, which abruptly stalled the Penguins’ postgame party as both teams were pulled back onto the ice while the offside challenge was reviewed.
“It was a real close offside,” said Gallant, who was steamed at the officials in the third period.
“The puck went really high in the air and it was probably inconclusive. But we had nothing to lose at that point. I think it was an OK goal.”
Florida trailed 1-0 after Sidney Crosby scored not only his first goal of the season, but his star-laden team’s first power-play marker of the year midway through the first.
The game remained scoreless until the third when the Panthers apparently tied the score at 1 after Brian Campbell’s long shot ricocheted off Reilly Smith in front of the net and the puck found its way past Marc-Andre Fluery.
Replays showed Smith hit the puck with his stick at crossbar level, which should have been a legal goal.
One unnamed official ruled it a no-goal, and replay officials in Toronto didn’t have enough evidence to overturn the high stick on Smith and allow the goal.
Moments later, Phil Kessel scored after knocking the puck away from Roberto Luongo (with a high stick of course) and then tracking the puck down and firing it past Luongo’s glove for a 2-0 lead.
That series of events had Gallant even more incensed and he leaned over the boards to let the officials know how mad he was. Officials never gave Gallant the chance to review that play. Reports in the press box had general manager Dale Tallon searching out review officials to find out exactly why the Panthers couldn’t challenge Kessel’s goal.
According to Gallant, center Derek MacKenzie told officials that Gallant wanted to talk to them, but those requests were ignored.
“There were a lot of challenges including some you weren’t allowed to use,” Gallant said. “It was a frustrating night for sure. I thought we scored a goal, it was disallowed; they score, we can’t challenge it. There were some frustrated calls for sure.”
Those sequences of events all but overshadowed a terrific game by Florida’s overlooked fourth line led by MacKenzie and rookies Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley. That trio led Florida’s comeback, forced overtime and earned a point in the standings.
With 6:03 left, Howden corralled a long pass from Brickley in front of the net, spun and roofed a shot over the shoulder of Fleury.
Moments later, it appeared Pittsburgh scored again when Willie Mitchell softly put the puck on goalie Luongo’s skate at the base of the cage. Luongo, who had 32 saves, couldn’t secure the puck and Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz charged in and knocked the puck through.
This non-goal wasn’t reviewable, however, as officials said the whistle had already blown the play dead. Florida, as Pittsburgh did on Kessel’s goal, cashed in on the new opportunity as on the next shift, MacKenzie one-timed a pass from Brickley past Fleury to tie the score.
“It was nice being able to contribute there late in a game — and contribute in a big way,” MacKenzie said.
“We’re usually watching the big lines in that situation as they try to get us back into it. [Gallant] showed a lot of faith in us.”
Said Gallant: “Considering everything that happened, this was a big point. We didn’t play great in the second period but bounced back and found a point.”