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Budaj’s Stellar Debut Not Enough As Bolts Fall 5-2

After their very active trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Lightning (29-26-8) looked to gain ground in the wild card race on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (39-16-8). They came into the affair 3-0-3 in their last six road games and looked to build on that in the PPG Paints Arena. Peter Budaj, the goalie acquired from the L.A. Kings in exchange for Ben Bishop, made his Lightning debut going up against Pens goalie Matt Murray.

The first period of the match up was uneventful in terms of goals scored, but each team had quality looks at the net. Both the Lightning and the Penguins ended the first with both nine shots although the Lightning had a power play midway through the period.

After a slow start, the second period started with Adam Erne putting away his first career goal on an awesome feed from Vladislav Namenestnikov following some great forechecking by Cedric Paquette. That goal put the Bolts up 1-0, but it didn’t take long for the Pens to take off after that.

Evgeni Malkin got his 27th and 28th goals of the season to put Pittsburgh up 2-1, as the Pens started their offensive tear in the second half of the game. Although power plays flooded the game in Pittsburgh’s favor, Budaj was at the top of his game, stopping 30 shots. By the end of the second period, the Lightning had given up all momentum to Pittsburgh, trailing 2-1 and getting out-shot 15-8 in the middle period.

Entering the final period, Tampa Bay sought at least one point out of the affair. Nikita Kucherov would continue his hot streak, scoring his 28th of the season just over one minute into the period and tying the game 2-2. Kucherov now has seven goals and 13 points in the Lightning’s last five games.

The winning goal for the Pens came only 1:28 after Kucherov’s tying-goal, as Mark Streit put one past Budaj to quickly end the Bolts celebration. It was Streit’s sixth of the season and first since joining the Penguins at the trade deadline on Wednesday. Streit was originally traded from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay, but then the Lightning flipped him to Pittsburgh just 48 minutes later.

The final two goals from Pittsburgh came from Justin Schultz on the power play and Tom Kuhnhackl into an empty net, clinching the 5-2 win for the Penguins.

Combined with the Islanders’ shootout loss in Chicago, the Lightning are now five points out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Tonight’s loss was only the Lightning’s second loss in regulation in their last 11 games, as they’re 7-2-2 in that stretch.

Tampa Bay will return to the ice Saturday night in Buffalo to take on the Sabres in the second half of back-to-back games. Puck drops at 7 pm.

 

THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1st Star: Evgeni Malkin – Scored a pair of goals and added an assist

2nd Star: Mark Streit – In his first game with Pittsburgh since joining them at the trade deadline, he picked up the game-winning goal and tacked on an assist.

3rd Star: Justin Schultz – Finished with a goal and an assist, as his goal gave the Penguins a two-goal lead late in the third period.

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