The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to labor through this NHL season barely hovering about .500 decimated by injuries, inconsistent play, and a few bad bounces. They would head into Pittsburgh desperately looking for a win as they hoped to snap a recent three-game losing streak.
The Lightning would show some early pressure in the first period attempting to test the Penguins energy and pace as they came off their week-long bye. Tampa’s pressure would draw the first power play of the game midway through the period as Penguins all-star center Evgeni Malkin would get called for hooking. The Lightning would appear to get a two-man advantage after Pittsburgh defenseman Trevor Daley would drag Alex Killorn to the ice, right in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. However, the refs appeared to see a different game and called Killorn for a holding penalty negating Tampa’s man advantage before it could get started. Bolts goalie Andre Vasilevksiy began to face a barrage of shots and close-range scoring chances late in the 1st period, but would utilize his positioning to keep things scoreless. The Penguins would out-shoot the Lightning 15-10 in the 1st period, but both teams would head to their locker rooms tied 0-0 after the initial period of play.
The second period would see both clubs amp up their pressure in a search to the get first goal of the game. Tampa would break through first as Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin would blast a shot into a wide open net after a Victor Hedman shot would deflect right to him, giving the Bolts the 1-0 lead early in the 2nd period. The first goal would appear to reinvigorate the Penguins offense as they would continue to pepper Vasilevskiy with shots after Drouin’s opening goal. The Penguins would eventually break through themselves after Sidney Crosby would fire a shot that would squirt through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole allowing Conor Sheary to tap in an easy goal, tying the game at 1-1. Tampa would get another power play opportunity shortly afterwards but could not get anything by Fleury. As the power play would expire, the Penguins would catch Tampa in a line change allowing Pittsburgh’s Matt Cullen to feed Eric Fehr on a 2-on-1 breakaway; Fehr buried his scoring chance to give his club a 2-1 lead in the 2nd period. The Lightning would get one more power play opportunity in the period but would fail to convert. The Bolts would also see Cedric Paquette take a stick to his face, sending him to the locker room and not drawing a penalty as the period came to a close. The Penguins would take a 2-1 lead into the final period, along with continuing to outshoot Tampa 29-21 after two periods.
The third period would see the Lightning pushing early for the equalizer. They would nearly get it as Marc-Andre Fleury would misplay a puck behind his own net and Vladislav Namestnikov would miss the wrap around goal on a wide open net. The Namestnikov near goal appeared to wake up the Penguins offense as both Scott Wilson and Chris Kunitz would score back-to-back goals within a minute of one another to give Pittsburgh a commanding 4-1 lead early in the 3rd period. Namestnikov would answer back for his earlier wraparound miss, beating Fleury to cut the deficit to 4-2. However, any hopes Tampa had at making a comeback would extinguish as Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel would bury a rebound past Vasilevskiy to make it 5-2 after the Penguins’ assault saw him face four shots in a row without any help from his defense. Kris Letang would add one more goal to punctuate the Pittsburgh blowout, as the game would end in a 6-2 victory for the Penguins. Pittsburgh would out shoot Tampa 40-30 on the night, sending Tampa’s losing streak to four games.
The Lightning would fall to 19-19-4 (42 points) while the Penguins would improve to 26-9-5 (55 points).
Tampa Bay will get some rest as they head back to Tampa to play the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Conor Sheary – He scored the early equalizer, and picked up an assist to give him a real nice game.
2nd Star: Matt Cullen– He would pick up two assists while only logging 11 mins of ice time.
3rd Star: Jonathan Drouin – The youngster did his best to jump-start the Tampa offense with the first goal of the game, but the rest of the team could not turn Drouin’s spark into anything substantive after their initial lead.
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