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Kucherov, Johnson and Palat Clip Penguins

The Tampa Bay Lightning have played 51 games so far this season and for the first few weeks it didn’t look like the Lightning were primed for anything more than an early season without a playoff bid. My how things have changed as of late. Since December 2nd the Bolts have only lost 7 games (8 if you count an overtime loss to the Canadiens on December 28th. Ben Bishop has been..well Ben Bishop again this season. In an era when one hit wonder goalies tend to come and go Bishop has been solid since making his Lightning debut on April 4th 2013 in a 45 shot shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.

The game didn’t start off quite the way the fans nor the Lightning were expecting. At 4:53 after a puck battle along the wall Patrick Hornqvist was able to get a close shot on Bishop and sniped it over his glove for a 1-0 Pittsburgh Penguins lead. Midway through the first it would be all Penguins as they held a 10-1 shots on goal advantage over the Lightning. Moments later Alex Killorn would cause a neutral zone turnover and fight along the wall for the puck before getting it to Tyler Johnson behind the net. Johnson would find a wide open Anton Stralman in front of the net who puts it past Fleury for a tie game. While at the 5:00 mark the Penguins still held a 11-2 shot advantage there was a bit of a momentum change with that Stralman goal. Tyler Johnson since returning from injury seems to have found that quick first step he had last year. With 1:26 left in the 1st period Nikita Kucherov would fire a shot towards Fleury with Alex Killorn getting a piece of it before it slipped past the Pittsburgh goalie. With the final moments ticking off the clock the Bolts would hold a 2-1 lead at the end of one.

Pittsburgh would start the 2nd on the penalty kill for :56 seconds. Unfortunately, the Lightning would start this game 0-2 on the power play, but it wouldn’t stay that way. Nearly midway through the 2nd period while on the penalty kill Ondrej Palat would get a shorthanded breakaway and bury it past Fleury for a 3-1 Lightning lead. Sidney Crosby would pull the Penguins back to within one goal with a puck it appeared he knocked out of midair. At the end of the 1st period the Lightning scored as you know. Originally that goal was given to Tyler Johnson, but then a few minutes into the 2nd period it was announced that Alex Killorn in fact scored that goal. Well Tyler Johnson would not be denied this time as he took a quick shot seconds into a power play to give the Lightning back their 2 goal lead 4-2. After the Tyler Johnson goal Mike Sullivan would pull Marc-Andre Fleury in favor of Jeff Zatkoff. While he would play over 10 minutes Zatkoff would only face two shots on goal before the 2nd would come to an end.

The 3rd definitely didn’t start the way they had envisioned. Not even a minute into the period Matt Cullen would take a Phil Kessel pass and get it past Bishop, but Jon Cooper and the Lightning saw something they had to question. Cooper would challenge that the Penguins were offside during Cullen’s scoring play, however after quite a few minutes the game referee’s would confirm the player was not offside and that the goal was in fact good. Shots on goal have been back and forth all game, but with five minutes to go in the 3rd the Lightning had narrowed the gap 27-25 not that shots on goal really matter as the Lightning scored three goals with only 5 shots on net in the 1st period. Under five minutes left in the 3rd the Lightning would go on an offensive zone rush with Stamkos getting a shot on net, but as the rebound bounced off Zatkoff, Palat would bounce the puck off his skate onto his stick and past Zatkoff to give the Lightning back their two goal lead. With under two minutes left in the game Anton Stralman would notch his second goal of the game on an empty netter.
Three Stars of the Game

3rd Star – Nikita Kucherov – Two Assists on the night not much more you can ask from a guy who leads your team in points.

2nd Star – Tyler Johnson – One goal two assists and it appears he’s getting that quick first step back.

1st Star – Ondrej Palat – Two goals including the goal that put the game away.

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