The Tampa Bay Lightning shocked the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals but paid a huge price while doing so; as their anchor in net Ben Bishop left the ice on a stretcher in the 1st period. Back-up goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy performed spectacularly in his absence keeping a dangerous Penguins offense to only a single goal, but entering game 2 Tampa knows the Penguins will be even more dangerous facing a 0-2 deficit if they were to lose. While Ben Bishop would reveal that his injury was not as bad as initially thought, the Lightning would need Vasilevskiy to perform another magic act if they hoped to leave Pittsburgh with another win. The series already looks like it could get nasty, as big hits from both teams seemed to draw the ire of both organizations setting the stage for a potential explosive Game 2. The Penguins would look for a strong performance from their rookie goaltender Matt Murray to carry them in a critical early series game. The team that could likely weather the storm of early emotions and get on the scoreboard first might carry them to victory.
The 1st period would start with a dangerous breakaway by Pittsburgh left winger Chris Kunitz after the opening face-off but Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy would stop the shot keeping it scoreless a mere ten seconds into the game. The opening face-off set the tone for the Penguins as they flew down the ice pressuring the Tampa defense with multiple odd man rushes. Despite Vasilevskiy’s strong play, Pittsburgh’s pressure would pay off early after a terrific shot by Eric Fehr would be kicked wide, right to Penguins center Matt Cullen who would bury the puck into an open net giving Pittsburgh the early 1-0 lead in the 1st period. Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin nearly tied the game midway through the 1st period but a big block by Penguins defender Ben Lovejoy would save a goal and keep Pittsburgh in the lead. The Penguins would continue their dominant first period pressure as the Tampa defenders could not corral Pittsburgh forward Nick Bonino who would throw a puck off of Andrej Sustr’s skate giving Penguins’s winger Phil Kessel a wide open net to bury the puck into the back of the net, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead midway through the 1st period. The game looked like it may get out of hand as Tampa’s Alex Killorn would take a holding penalty shortly after the second goal of the game, giving the Penguins their first power play of the night. The Lightning’s penalty kill would stop the bleeding with an excellent defensive effort to keep the game at a 2-0 deficit late in the 1st period. Tampa would not get many chances in the 1st period but when they did they made them count; as newly returned defenseman Anton Stralman would bury his 1st goal of the playoffs after getting a beautiful pass from Jonathan Marchessault to cut the Penguins lead to 2-1 late in the 1st period. The Penguins would get another power play opportunity with a little over 3 minutes to go in the period, but again could generate no offense as the Tampa penalty kill would smother their man advantage to keep the game at a one goal deficit. It looked like the Penguins would take their one goal lead to the locker room but someone forgot to tell Lightning forwards JT Brown and Jonathan Drouin as they had other plans. Brown would hit Drouin with a cross ice pass and Drouin would fire a laser shot past Penguins goalie Matt Murray tying the game at 2-2 with only 50 seconds remaining in the 1st period. The 1st period horn would sound as the stunned CONSOL energy arena crowd saw both clubs head to the locker room tied 2-2 despite the Penguins dominating most of the period. The Penguins would have the shots on goal advantage 14-8 through the 1st period.
The 2nd period would start with the Lightning looking to carry their late 1st period momentum into the next frame. The Lightning would look to test Matt Murray with several tricky redirected shots but the rookie goalie would keep the game tied early in the 2nd period. Pittsburgh forward Patric Hornqvist would try to break the tie early in the 2nd as he would get two back to back close range shots off near the Lightning goal but Vasilevskiy would keep his proper positioning, allowing him to turn away both shots. Jonathan Drouin would continue he excellent playoff run as he nearly beat Matt Murray with another shot but the subsequent rebound would force the goalie to take a tripping penalty giving the Lightning their 1st power play of the game. The subsequent Lightning power play would move the puck well and generate a few chances but could not capitalize with the man advantage. Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby nearly broke the tie midway through the 2nd period as he would fire a back hand shot towards a wide open net after a great cross ice pass, but Andrei Vasilevskiy would make his best save of the game robbing a clear goal with a glove save to keep it at 2-2. The Penguins would continue to pressure the Bolts offensive zone for most of the second half of the 2nd period as the Lightning would fail to get a shot on goal for over five minutes. The Lightning would nearly steal a late goal as Tyler Johnson would find Alex Killorn behind the Penguins defense with only 10 seconds remaining in the period for a breakaway, but Killorn could not beat Murray and the 2nd period would end tied 2-2. The Penguins would maintain their shots on goal advantage with a 22-15 advantage through two periods.
The 3rd period began with both teams looking a little sloppy as they were looking for the go ahead goal. The Penguins would continue their constant offensive zone pressure as the Lightning looked content waiting to spring their counter-attack early in the 3rd period. Sidney Crosby would get an opportunity to break the tie as he found himself with the puck just outside the Tampa Bay goal mouth but could not beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a quick wrist shot. The Penguins would continue to smother the Tampa Bay Lightning offensive zone until a turnover sprung a Tampa 2 on 1 that Alex Killorn would fire a shot off the crossbar keeping the game tied midway thru the 3rd period. The Penguins would continue their assault on the Tampa net with multiple shots on the Lightning goal but Andrei Vasilevskiy kept turning them away empty-handed. The Penguins and Lightning would trade mad scrambles the last five minutes of play but both goalies would keep the game tied forcing the teams to decide Game 2 in overtime. The Penguins would continue dominate with their scoring chances amassing a shot on goal advantage 38-21 after three periods of play.
The overtime period would start in a flurry of Penguin shots and result in their superstar Sidney Crosby taking advantage of the Tampa defense’s inability to clear the puck and he would beat Andrei Vasilevskiy with a scorching shot to seal the overtime win and tying the series at 1-1. The Penguins would win the game 3-2 and the shots on goal battle 41-21.
The Lightning and Penguins are now tied 1-1 for the series.
The Lightning will face the Pittsburgh Penguins for Game 3 of the series on Wednesday May 18th at 8:00pm.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy – The young Lightning goalie despite being the losing goalie was by far Tampa’s most valuable player on the ice tonight. He faced 41 shots and stopped 38 of them. From the initial puck drop and into the extra period he was under siege but gave his club a chance to win the game, unfortunately his defense did not back him up tonight.
2. Sidney Crosby- He generated several offensive chances in regulation but most importantly he got the OT winner, which is exactly what his team needed from their superstar in a critical game 2.
3. Jonathan Drouin- The young Tampa forward continues to impress in his first extended playoff run, he got the tying regulation goal in the 1st period and nearly found a second goal in the 3rd period.
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