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Second straight early deficit costs Lightning in loss to Penguins

Wayne Masut | The Scrum Sports

On Tuesday evening, the Tampa Bay Lightning faced an early 2-0 deficit to the Ottawa Senators before reeling off five consecutive goals in a 5-2 victory on home ice. That win came on the heels of the Bolts’ memorable victory in their first-ever outdoor appearance in last Saturday’s Stadium Series game in Nashville. A slow start on Tuesday appeared understandable considering the emotional high of playing in front of 68,000 fans on national television.

However, the Lightning failed to learn their lesson from that victory over Ottawa. With the Pittsburgh Penguins coming to town, Tampa Bay couldn’t afford to face another early deficit. Unfortunately for them, that’s exactly what they did, and this time, there was no thunderous rally.

For the second consecutive game, the Lightning (35-12-6, 76 points) fell behind 2-0 in the opening period. Unlike the Senators, the Penguins (34-14-8, 76 points) not only held onto the lead, they continued to build on it. Thanks to a three-point night from Evgeni Malkin and multi-point efforts from Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Danton Heinen, the Penguins walked away with a 5-1 victory over the Lightning at Amalie Arena that was more lopsided than what the score would indicate.

Pittsburgh nearly doubled Tampa Bay in shots, finishing the night leading 40-21 in that department. In addition, the Penguins held a 75-45 advantage in shot attempts. At 5-on-5, the Pens held a 62-39 advantage in shot attempts, while outshooting the Bolts 32-18 when each team had five skaters a side. Simply put, if this wasn’t the worst performance by the Lightning this season, it was awfully close. Pittsburgh dominated this game in all facets from beginning to end, controlling puck possession and not letting the Lightning do much of anything in the offensive zone. Tristan Jarry stopped 20 shots for the win, while Andrei Vasilevskiy took the loss for the Lightning, who saw their five-game winning streak snapped while the Penguins extended their winning streak to three games.

Falling into an early deficit for the second straight game

The first eight minutes of this game could be described as nothing short of a disaster for the Lightning. The Penguins controlled the puck for long stretches in the Tampa Bay zone. Pittsburgh forced turnovers, created a few chances off the rush, and held a 12-2 lead in shots on goal.

They turned that early barrage of shots into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Heinen and Crosby, with Heinen’s goal coming at the 3:46 mark. Malkin carried the puck into the Lightning zone, dished it to Kasperi Kapanen, who put it on net. The puck pinballed around the slot before coming to Heinen, who buried it for the game’s opening goal. Following a tripping penalty on Erik Cernak, Crosby cashed in on the power play, collecting a feed from Guentzel and firing home a shot from the left faceoff dot for his 17th of the year at the 6:27 mark.

The Lightning didn’t show signs of life until about four-and-a-half minutes remained in the period. Alex Killorn and Mathieu Joseph had a pair of fantastic chances from in-close, but Jarry denied them both. Tampa Bay generated some offensive zone time in the final minute, eventually leading to Brayden Point and Kris Letang dropping the gloves just before the intermission. Pittsburgh carried a 2-0 lead into the dressing room while holding a 16-5 advantage in shots on goal.

Fourth line gets the Lightning back in it

From an offensive perspective, the early minutes of the second period weren’t much different for the Lightning, as they failed to muster any kind of extended offensive zone time. However, their fortunes slowly began to shift at the 6:20 mark when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare forced a Letang turnover in Pittsburgh’s zone. Pat Maroon picked up the puck before dishing back to Bellemare. Bellemare proceeded to skate in alone before beating Jarry for his seventh of the year, cutting the Lightning’s deficit to 2-1.

While the Lightning slightly closed the gap in the second period in terms of shot attempts, Pittsburgh continued to be quicker to the puck and more stout defensively. Tampa Bay managed a few high-quality chances, including one by Steven Stamkos that glanced off the crossbar and a setup from Corey Perry to Bellemare that just missed. The Pens regained their two-goal lead thanks to a breakaway goal by Brock McGinn. Evan Rodrigues intercepted a pass by Ondrej Palat before dishing it to McGinn, who got behind Mikhail Sergachev. McGinn dashed in and scored with 2:52 to go in the period.

Officials toss Jon Cooper following angry tirade

The tone of the game became angrier with just under a minute to go as a huge scrum led to Perry, Anthony Cirelli, Mark Friedman, and Bryan Rust all taking roughing penalties, with Perry taking an extra roughing minor with just under 54 seconds left on the clock. One could make a case that all the penalties should’ve canceled each other out, and Perry’s extra penalty didn’t sit well with Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper, who angrily berated the officials, earning himself a penalty for abuse of officials and getting ejected from the game in the process. The Penguins owned a 28-13 lead in shots on goal after two periods, but couldn’t take advantage of an extended 5-on-3 that would carry over into the third period.

Bolts kill off the 5-on-3, but Penguins increase their lead en route to victory

Tampa Bay’s penalty killers put forth a valiant effort, killing off the two-minute 5-on-3. That included a shot block by Ryan McDonagh that appeared quite painful, but he still remained in the game. Despite receiving a temporary boost by the penalty kill, the Bolts failed to take advantage. Like most of the night, Tampa Bay failed to spend much time in the offensive zone in the third period. When they did get there, they were often one-and-done or hampered by bad puck management.

At the 5:14 mark, the Bolts turned the puck over at the Pittsburgh blue line, and the Pens were off to the races the other way. Heinen sprung Malkin for a breakaway, and like McGinn in the second period, Malkin buried it for his 10th goal in just his 20th game this season following his return from surgery. The goal put Pittsburgh up 4-1, extending Malkin’s point streak to seven games. Tampa Bay made a bold move in pulling Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker with seven minutes remaining. However, the move backfired, as Guentzel scored into the empty net with exactly six minutes left. A 5-1 deficit proved to be insurmountable for the Lightning. As a result, they fell to second place in the Atlantic Division thanks to Florida’s 3-0 win over Ottawa.

Tampa Bay returns to action Friday night when they host the Detroit Red Wings at 7 pm EST.

Our Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Evgeni Malkin – One goal, two assists, extends point streak to seven games.

2nd Star: Danton Heinen – Scored the game-opening goal and added an assist.

3rd Star: Brock McGinn – Answered the Lightning’s lone goal by making it 3-1, added one assist.

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