Tampa Bay Lightning Hold Off Penguins, Secure First Playoff Berth Since 2007

The Tampa Bay Lightning look to win three in a row and secure their spot in the postseason as the potential first round opponent Pittsburgh Penguins skates into town.

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Tampa Bay Lightning Hold Off Penguins, Secure First Playoff Berth Since 2007

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be heading to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, securing their spot in the postseason with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the St Petersburg Times Forum. The Bolts jumped out to a 2 goal first period lead and were able to hang on despite a furious Penguins rally in what was most likely a preview of the first round playoff match-up.

Forward Steve Downie scored the first points of the contest, pushing a backhand past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just 5 minutes into the first period. Five minutes later, Martin St. Louis would net his 30th of the year on a quick wrist shot set up by a big physical hit by team captain Vincent Lecavalier. The two first period goals would prove to be enough as goal-tender Dwayne Roloson was sensational, stopping 36 shots as the Bolts were out-shot 37-24 by a inspired Penguins team.

Having lost Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin to injury, the Penguins have had to rely on strong goal-tending and scoring from some of their secondary and role players. Fleury was steady, but the Penguins were unable to get more than one puck past Roloson as Michael Rupp tallied the only goal for Pittsburgh on a lazy wrist shot that appeared to be tipping in by Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin's shoulder.

The Bolts have now won three games in a row, relying on a high energy level in each, and have turned momentum in their favor heading into the playoffs. They have also given themself a shot at catching Pittsburgh in the standings, which could mean home-ice for the first round match-up. Pittsburgh will remain at 98 points while the Lightning move closer at 95, just 3 points behind the 4th place Pens.

Up next for the Bolts is a three game road trip to Minnesota and Chicago over the weekend, and finishing in Buffalo on Tuesday. Thursday will mark the final regular season home game of the season as the Bolts host the Florida Panthers.

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Ryan Malone Returns For Lightning As Bolts Host Penguins In Possible Playoff Preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning can clinch their first playoff berth in four seasons with a win tonight against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. With the magic number down to two, a victory secures the Bolts a ticket to the postseason and tonight's game is likely a preview of the first round matchup as the fourth place Penguins will face-off at 7:30pm est in the St. Petersburg Times Forum.

The Penguins have been a remarkable story as they lost both stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injuries but continued to climb up the standings. Led by outstanding goal-tending by Marc-Andre Fleury the Pens have managed to not only stay in the playoff hunt but have battled with Philadelphia for first place in the Northeastern division. However, in fourth place at 98 points, four points behind the Flyers, its looking more and more likely that the Penguins will end up playing the fifth place Lightning in the first round of the postseason.

For the Bolts, they will be getting a big boost as forward Ryan Malone will finally return from an abdominal injury that has sidelined him since February. The former Penguin, in addition to Steve Downies recent comeback, will give the Lightning some much needed intensity that the team has lacked during its March swoon.

Having won two straight, Tampa Bay is hoping to not drag out the clinching process and punch their ticket tonight in front of the hometown crowd. Trailing Pittsburgh by only 5 points, the Bolts can also move to within three points of home-ice advantage for the first round match up. Nobody wants to limp into the playoffs and gaining some momentum in the final push towards the postseason is critical for a team that has recently struggled so mightily.

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