Following an amazing game one in Pittsburgh and subpar game two the Tampa Bay Lighting returned to the friendly confines of Amalie Arena, but unfortunately for at least one game it wasn’t so friendly on the ice. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 44 saves in game three, but it wasn’t enough to get his team the victory as he also gave up four goals. Tonight was a must win heading into the game as the Lightning didn’t want to go back to Pittsburgh down 3-1 in the series. Jon Cooper spoke before the game about Nikita Kucherov “When someone scores at the rate he’s been scoring you get so used to it, but let’s be honest that’s a little unrealistic.” Kucherov has been held to only two assists against the Penguins, but had nine goals and three assists in the previous two playoff series.
Lightning fans would have to wait long as not even a minute into the game Victor Hedman would rocket a shot towards Matt Murray. Ryan Callahan would ultimately redirect the shot in the slot slipping it past the Pittsburgh net minder for a very early 1-0 lead. The goal was scored a mere 27 seconds into the game. Showing the type of pressure, the Lightning were planning on bringing to the Penguins in the game. The Bolts dominated play in the first period keeping play in the Penguins zone for the majority of the period. While Murray was giving up a number of rebounds right in the slot. The Lightning were unable to get to the shots in time to capitalize. Almost exactly 14 minutes would pass before the Lightning would strike again. This time however Nikita Kucherov would break into the zone pass to Alex Killorn who would dish the puck to a wide open Andrej Sustr to the right of Matt Murray. Sustr would bury the puck and give the Lightning a 2-0 lead. Tampa Bay is 6-0 when leading after one period and the way they played tonight has been the best since game one.
With the shots on goal favoring the Bolts though one (18-12) Tampa Bay continued their pressure into the second period. Tampa Bay went at Pittsburgh early in the second continuing their strong pressure from the first. At times there were glimpses of the team that got beat in games two and three, especially on the power play. While the Lightning had good pressure for most the night the Lighting’s passing was very bad at times. It would take a little while for the Lightning to get their mojo in the 2nd period, but it did eventually come out. At 14:38 of the 2nd period Jonathan Drouin would get a puck wide open on the left side of Murray and bury it for a 3-0 lead. Just over three minutes later Tyler Johnson would be in the right place at the right time as a puck would bounce off him and slide past Matt Murray for a 4-0 Tampa Bay lead. The Bolts would carry a 30-22 shots on goal advantage into the 3rd period.
While the Bolts didn’t play strategically a great game they took a 4-0 lead into the 3rd period and Andrei Vasilevskiy played as well as he had all series long. The Penguins would make a change heading into the 3rd period by pulling Matt Murray and replacing him with former starter and Stanley Cup Champ Marc-Andre Fleury. Phil Kessel would continue his hot play by notching his 8th goal of the playoffs early in the 3rd period. Near the mid way point of the 3rd the Lighting held a decisive shot on goal advantage 36-27. One of the major things the Lightning hadn’t done in the last two games is shoot the puck enough. Tonight they shot it plenty and the proof is on the scoreboard as the scored four goals. Following a bad neutral zone play Evgeni Malkin is able to cut the Bolts lead in half by getting the Penguins second goal of the game. The Lightning began to fall into really bad habits in the 3rd. Letting Pittsburgh just walk into the zone as the Bolts back in isn’t something they can do with this Penguins team. All game long for the most part they’ve attacked and have four goals to show for it and until this period the Penguins had none. Around seven minutes remaining Chris Kunitz would get the Penguins back to within one with a power play goal. This Lightning team needed to get back on the attack and keep the Penguins off guard. The Penguins in the final few minutes in the 3rd were determined to get to Vasilevskiy, luckily the Lightning were able to narrowly escape with the victory 4-3
3 Stars of the Game
3rd Star – Andrei Vasilevskiy: Did every single thing the team needed him to do to tie the series up.
2nd Star – Victor Hedman: 2 assists to continue his dominant play in the playoffs. He has 10 assists this postseason and a total of 14 points
1st Star – Ryan Callahan: The Lightning forward was all over the place following an early goal that set the tone for the game.
Next Up: Game 5 Sunday night at 8pm from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
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