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RFREHFRHFUH GRHEHEHFHFHEHHGHE HRGRGGGEGRGRGHRHR… OK, now that your heart is restarted, let’s talk about how the Tampa Bay Lightning held off the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
As expected, the Penguins were relentless in the third period, forechecking very aggressively and pinning the Lightning in their own end for what seemed like minutes on end. Tampa Bay helped them out by not mounting a serious offensive threat for the entire period, and several times failing to get the puck deep into the Penguins end of the ice while trying to clear the zone. They even took a pair of bad penalties — a too many men on the ice bench minor, and a slashing penalty on Nate Thompson with only 1:33 remaining in the game. But even with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury pulled after the Thompson penalty to give Pittsburgh a 6-on-4 advantage, the Penguins were unable to get a shot past Dwayne Roloson, and the Lightning survived… barely.
Roloson recorded his first shutout of the playoffs, stopping 14 shots in the third period and 36 overall. He is now 6-0 in his career when his team has faced elimination, and he helped the Lightning move to 3-0 in franchise history in Game 7’s. At the other end, Fleury made 22 saves, only allowing the one goal to Sean Bergenheim in the second period.
The Lightning have won their first playoff series since raising the Stanley Cup in 2004, and they also recorded their first comeback from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. Next up in the second round are their division rivals, the Washington Capitals, with whom the Lightning have had some rather chippy games over the last couple of seasons. There wasn’t much hate quotient for a Pittsburgh team missing its two best players, but this Lightning-Capitals matchup could make up for it and then some. The series will kick off from the Verizon Center in Washington on Friday night at 7:00pm Eastern time.
Sean Bergenheim has the only goal so far in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. WIth their 1-0 lead at the second intermission, the Lightning are one period away from advancing.
Bergenheim’s goal was almost a carbon copy of the goal he scored to give the Lightning a second-period lead in Game 6. Dominic Moore took the puck at the near corner boards and skated behind the net as Bergenheim moved into position near the post. Then just like he had done in the previous game, Moore passed it behind his back to Bergenheim, who scored into an open net while Marc-Andre Fleury looked for the puck around the other post. The Game 7 goal was scored at 5:41 of the period, only three seconds sooner than Bergenheim’s Game 6 goal.
Shortly after, Tampa Bay nearly extended their lead on the power play. Ryan Malone worked the puck around to Pavel Kubina, creeping in from the right point for a shot on Fleury. But Kubina needed a split second to get the puck positioned on his stick for a shot, and that gave the Penguins goalie enough time to slide across the crease and make a strong glove save.
Tampa Bay carried the play for long stretches in the middle period, but the Penguins began making a push towards the end of the second, and obviously they will go all-out in the third period to try and tie the game and avoid elimination.
Tampa Bay struggled to generate scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes, only getting seven shots on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and generating very few good opportunities among those. Pittsburgh is attempting a physical style of play to take the Lightning off the puck and keep them out of the goal mouth. Which is a good thing, because Fleury appears to still be susceptible to giving up rebounds.
Pittsburgh put 15 shots on Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson in the first period, but many of them were from the edges and the corners and he turned them all aside. The Penguins had the only two power plays of the first period, but once again they could not capitalize, dropping them to a dismal 1-for-32 in the series with the man advatange.
There's no tomorrow for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Win Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins and they earn a trip to either Washington or Philadelphia to start the second round this weekend. Lose, and they earn a trip to the golf course. The puck drops a little after 8:00pm Eastern time from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Sun Sports will have TV coverage from the opening faceoff, and Versus will join the game in progress after the Bruins-Canadiens game ends.
Part of battling back from a 3-1 series deficit is treating every game like it's your last. So with the Lightning facing their third straight elimination game, coach Guy Boucher is comfortable with the pressure of a Game 7 because his team has already been through it twice and they continue to learn from the experience.
"What's the difference between us being eliminated in the fifth game, being eliminated in the sixth game? We've been playing Game 7 hockey the last two games. ... Players are managing circumstances better than they were before. There's a lot more calm when a penalty is called against us. There's a lot more calm when the other team scores, a lot more calm when the other team starts to get a bit of momentum."
With the Lightning squashing the Pittsburgh power play (1-for-30 in the series) and having their way in front of Marc-Andre Fleury's net, coach Dan Bylsma is considering lineup changes for Game 7 that may include the return of Eric Tangradi and Derek Engelland. Tangradi was parked in front of the net on Pittsburgh's only power-play goal of the series, and Engelland's toughness may help clear Lightning players out from their perches next to Fleury.
Last year the Penguins blew a 3-2 series lead to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, losing Game 7 badly on home ice. Meanwhile, the Lightning have won both of their Game 7's in franchise history, but this is their first road Game 7. Can they complete the comeback and move on to the second round?
Chew off your fingernails waiting for tonight's game with the fans at Raw Charge, SB Nation's Lightning blog.
Steve Downie’s goal early in the third period broke a 2-2 tie, leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The series is now tied at three games apiece and will be decided on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
Trailing by a goal to start the period, the Penguins tied it at the 3:48 mark. Matt Niskanen held a puck in at the left point and found Jordan Staal with some space at the top of the slot. With James Neal screening Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, Staal skated in and wristed a shot past Roloson’s stick side to even the score at 2-2.
The Penguins nearly took the lead on the very next shift. A loose puck bounced onto Maxime Talbot’s stick and he broke in alone on Roloson. But the Lightning goalie made three spectacular, rapid-fire saves right in front of the net — Talbot’s shot, his own rebound, and a follow-up by Pascal Dupuis. Shortly afterward, Tampa Bay would be celebrating a 3-2 lead.
On the ensuing rush up the ice, Simon Gagne chopped a puck up the far boards and Vincent Lecavalier retrieved it near the left point. The Lightning captain wired a pass to Downie, all alone at the net behind the Penguins’ Zbynek Michalek. Downie’s first shot was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury, but he fit the rebound underneath Fleury to give Tampa Bay their one-goal lead back, only a minute and five seconds after Staal had tied the game.
Near the halfway mark of the third, the Lightning extended the lead. Kris Letang’s dump-in hit one of the struts holding up the glass in the near corner and ricocheted out into the slot, right to Mattias Ohlund. He lifted the puck out of the zone and down the middle, where Ryan Malone beat a surprised Brooks Orpik to it and headed in on a breakaway. (Orpik had skated towards the top of the offensive zone, expecting Letang's pass to roll around the boards and out to the right point so he could hold the zone.) Malone, who had been having a frustrating night, slapped a shot over Fleury’s left shoulder that bounced in off the crossbar to make the score 4-2.
The Lightning easily defended the two-goal lead from there. The only serious scoring threat came with about four minutes left from Letang, who rang a shot off the post that a heavily screened Roloson never saw.
Tampa Bay will attempt to complete their first-ever comeback from a 3-1 series deficit in Wednesday night’s Game 7. Faceoff time and TV details are still to be determined.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took the lead at 2-1 with 14 minutes left in the second period and carried it into the second intermission. Center Dominic Moore was able to take the puck behind the Pittsburgh Penguins net and made a beautiful back-handed pass to Sean Bergenheim that completely fooled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Bergenheim was able to score an easy goal on the unprotected back side of the net.
The Bolts were heavily penalized during this second period, with four Penguin power plays and a penalty shot. The Lightning killed off the power plays thanks to excellent defense and a thunderous St. Pete Times Forum. Throughout this string of penalties, there was only one dangerous attempt on Dwayne Roloson's net -- a penalty shot for Penguins right wing Chris Conner. But the Lightning were able to hold their ground when Conner botched his penalty shot, losing sight of the puck and letting it roll off his stick, leaving the score 2-1 Lightning.
Both team are playing frantic and fast-paced hockey with the Lightning rightly playing like the series depends on it. You can catch the rest of this game on Sun Sports (or Versus if you're away from the Tampa Bay area).
Teddy Purcell’s first career playoff goal gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 1-1 tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins after one period of Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Purcell scored just after a Lightning power play had ended. With Kris Letang not quite back in the play after being released from the penalty box, Steve Downie’s shot deflected off a Penguins skate and right to Purcell, about 10 feet from the net. He couldn’t control the puck, but Ryan Malone pulled it in and shot it. After Marc-Andre Fleury made the save, Purcell grabbed the rebound and slid it under Fleury’s pads to tie the game.
Pittsburgh’s goal was a combination of bad play behind the net by Dwayne Roloson and a smart play by Maxime Talbot. Roloson tried to backhand a puck around the back of the net to Marc-Andre Bergeron, but Talbot read the play and jumped in to steal the puck when Roloson hesitated. Talbot then went behind the net to the opposite side and passed to Pascal Dupuis for a quick one-timer that beat Roloson on the stick side.
Although the team scoring first has won every game in the series, it’s the first game where the team taking the 1-0 lead did not make it a 2-0 lead.
Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins are telling everyone that the key to getting ready for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal will be to forget about Game 5, an 8-2 Lightning rout that kept their season alive.
For Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who made 31 saves in Saturday's win, he believes in a 12-hour rule, win or lose -- enough time to reflect on the previous game, but not so long that he ends up dwelling on it. As the article from Monday's St. Petersburg Times points out, Roloson has a stellar .942 save percentage and a 2.06 goals against average in this series, both among the top marks for goaltenders so far in the playoffs. Even though Roloson has had a couple of soft goals scored on him (including the game-winner from James Neal in Game 4), he's been able to bounce back.
In Pittsburgh, the Penguins were a bit more direct in their goal of moving past Saturday's loss:
"Seriously, we have nothing to get out of that game," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "Hopefully, we're not even thinking about it. Not before the next game. Not ever again."
Normally the Lightning would be looking forward to another home game in the series. But home ice has actually been a disadvantage so far in the playoffs. The home team is only 1-4 in this series and 18-24 overall in the first round. It's a stat Lightning coach Guy Boucher is all too familiar with.
"I mean, it's great to play in front of your fans, but the reality is, in that situation you sometimes become too emotional to focus on your task, and that's a danger and that's (a trap) we don't want to fall into (tonight)."
Boucher scheduled Sunday's practice for late afternoon so that some of the players could check into a downtown hotel and treat Game 6 a bit like a road game. Monday night's faceoff is a little bit after 7:00pm as Tampa Bay tries to fight off elimination again and send the series back to Pittsburgh for a decisive Game 7.
Late Saturday afternoon, the NHL announced that Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will begin at 7:00pm Eastern time. The game, which became necessary after the Lightning’s 8-2 win in Saturday’s Game 5, will be played in the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
While official word regarding TV doesn’t appear to have been handed down, all signs point to the game being broadcast nationally on Versus. The only other series that could have played in the early time slot on Monday night was the one between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. But when the Capitals finished off that series with a 3-1 win on Saturday, the Lightning and Penguins were the only option remaining.
If the Lightning win on Monday night and force a Game 7, that deciding game will be played back in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night.
Steven Stamkos, Pavel Kubina, and Simon Gagne each scored two goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning crushed the Pittsburgh Penguins 8-2 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The Lightning cut Pittsburgh’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2 and forced a Game 6 in Tampa on Monday night.
While Tampa Bay’s effort had been lacking at times during the series, it picked up noticeably from late in the first period on through the game. Stamkos, Gagne (twice), and Vincent Lecavalier scored goals in a 10-minute span covering the first and second periods, all on rebounds and second chances that rewarded the team’s hard work and hustle. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots, but his backup Brent Johnson didn’t fare much better, giving up four more goals on 11 shots. The Lightning’s lead grew to 7-0 in the third period before the Penguins broke the shutout with goals by Michael Rupp and Chris Conner.
The Lightning set team records for goals (8) and power-play goals (4) in a playoff game. Tampa Bay’s last four goals were all with the man advantage, including Stamkos’s second goal, both of Kubina’s goals, and one from Dominic Moore that closed out the scoring. Stamkos had an assist to go with his two goals, Teddy Purcell added three assists, and 14 different Lightning players had at least one point in the game. At the other end, Dwayne Roloson made 31 saves to get the win in net.
Monday night’s Game 6 will be at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, with a start time and TV details still to be determined.
Looks like there will be a Game 6 in Tampa on Monday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning have a 5-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second period of Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
Tampa Bay extended their lead with goals that followed unsuccessful Penguins power plays. After killing a man advantage that started the second period, Vincent Lecavalier scored at 1:55 of the period to extend the Lightning’s lead to 3-0, assisted by Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Then, after killing a too many men on the ice penalty, Simon Gagne scored his second goal of the game to make it 4-0. That was the end of the day for Marc-Andre Fleury, who was replaced in net by Brent Johnson. But it wasn’t the end of the scoring binge for Tampa Bay, because a minute and a half after Gagne scored, Stamkos picked up his second goal of the game on a power play for a 5-0 lead.
Pittsburgh’s power play is now 1-for-23 in the series and their prospects for ending the series today are very dim as the Lightning have a comfortable lead.
After sleepwalking through most of the first period, the Tampa Bay Lightning struck for two goals in 45 seconds in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos both scored on rebounds, and despite being outshot 13-8 and probably outplayed, Tampa Bay leads 2-0 after one period.
The Lightning’s first good scoring chance ended up in the back of the net. After a turnover at center, Vincent Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell, and Gagne made a series of touch passes as they moved towards Marc-Andre Fleury in a triangle. Purcell’s one-time shot hit two posts, although replays indicate it may have gone in so he may eventually get credit for the goal. Either way, Gagne was all alone in the crease to tap home the rebound to put the Lightning ahead 1-0.
Not long after, Stamkos got off the goal-scoring schneid. Steve Downie kept a loose puck in the offensive zone and took a shot from the point. Fleury made the save, but Stamkos found the rebound and lifted a shot over Fleury for a 2-0 lead.
There has been a 2-0 lead in all five games of the series, and the team taking the 2-0 lead has won the first four. The Lightning will need to finish killing a Penguins power play to begin the second period as they try to send this series back to Tampa for Game 6.
Sure the Lightning's season is on the edge. But this isn't the end of the ride -- not even close.
Talk about an exciting – if disappointing – game. The Lightning refused to go down without a fight, but after 83 minutes of gameplay, Pittsburgh’s James Neal took an awkward shot from near the wall and snuck the puck past Dwayne Roloson’s shoulder. His goal sealed an overtime victory for the Penguins, putting them ahead in this playoff series 3-1.
Tampa Bay started off the game slow, falling behind in the first period 1-0. They looked like they were playing the game half asleep, and they allowed another goal early in the second period, but things picked up for them shortly thereafter when Martin St. Louis sunk a low wrist shot for the Bolts’ first goal of the game. Sean Bergenheim then scored the Bolt’s second goal in the third period with only 3:17 left in the game, sending the Penguins and Lightning into overtime. And after a scoreless first overtime, James Neal sunk his shot for the Penguins and the game was over.
The Penguins out-shot the Lightning by a considerable margin over the course of the game, 53-31. Dwayne Roloson was the real MVP for the game for the Lightning, saving 50 shots and keeping the Lightning in the game despite their poor shot differential.
Game 5 in the series will be played midday on Saturday in Pittsburgh. If the Lightning lose, they will be eliminated from the playoffs and the Penguins will move on to the second round.
For more news and analysis on the Lightning, follow SB Nation’s blog Raw Charge.
One scoreless overtime period has passed between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and a second 20-minute session is about to begin in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.
The teams mostly fenced and parried through the extra period, but they both had a handful of chances to end the game. Pittsburgh’s best chance came on an impromptu 2-on-1 around 11 minutes in. After Brett Clark whiffed on a stick check, the Penguins moved in on Dwayne Roloson. A pass from Jordan Staal to a wide-open Chris Conner looked like it would lead to the game-winner. But Conner’s shot was slowed up by the stick of Victor Hedman, and Roloson got his pad out to steer it wide.
Late in overtime, Craig Adams hooked down Simon Gagne and went off with a penalty. But the Penguins doubled down and killed off the penalty, blocking an open shot by Steven Stamkos and turning aside a Pavel Kubina blast from the right faceoff circle.
This is already the longest home playoff game in Lightning history. Will they finish the marathon victorious?
Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will be decided in overtime. Sean Bergenheim’s score off a goal-mouth scramble with 3:17 left in regulation tied the game 2-2, leading to the first extra session of the series.
Pittsburgh had been holding off the Lightning’s attempts to tie the game for most of the third, but finally Tampa Bay crashed the net and scored a true “playoffs” kind of goal. Pavel Kubina’s shot from the point was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury, and all three forwards moved in to get to the rebound. Martin St. Louis’s follow-up didn’t get through, but Bergenheim found the loose puck and roofed it over a somersaulting Fleury to even the score.
Dwayne Roloson has made 38 saves through three periods, and the Lightning have been outshot 40-22 in the game. One thing to watch will be if Penguins forward Maxime Talbot returns. With a minute to play, he was leveled by Eric Brewer while playing a loose puck in the corner. No penalty was called (the hit did not appear to be dirty), and Talbot was down on the ice for a short time before skating off to the locker room, appearing woozy.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a little over half a period away from falling behind the Pittsburgh Penguins three games to one in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. But they only trail 2-1 in Game 4 thanks to more heroics from Martin St. Louis.
The Penguins increased their lead to 2-0 at the 2:39 mark of the second period on a wrist shot from Arron Asham, who along with his linemates have been a thorn in the Lightning’s side all series long. Pittsburgh then looked for the knockout blow and took control of the game on both ends of the ice. At one point in the second period, the Lightning were being outshot 28-11 as they continued having trouble generating scoring chances.
Then suddenly things broke. Vincent Lecavalier banked a pass to St. Louis along the far-side boards. St. Louis cut around Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a low wrist shot to cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half with 2:46 left in the second. It was St. Louis' fourth goal in the playoffs, as many as the rest of the Lightning combined. Not long after, Lecavalier sent Steven Stamkos in on a breakaway with a chance to tie the game. But Paul Martin made a fantastic defensive play, keeping his stick on the ice and breaking up Stamkos’s scoring chance as he tried to deke Fleury out of position.
A good first period would have gone a long way towards helping the Tampa Bay Lightning win Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, they played maybe their worst period of the series and trail 1-0 after a Tyler Kennedy power-play goal.
The Lightning were outshot 12-6 and failed to sustain much offensive pressure. They were unable to get any shots on goal during their only power play of the period, and their best scoring chance was snuffed out by Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury after Sean Bergenheim sprung out of the penalty box, took a pass, and broke in alone on the Penguins goalie. Vincent Lecavalier followed up the play and tried to lift the puck over Fleury’s left pad at the side of the net, but that shot was stopped too.
The Penguins scored their first power-play goal of the series at 8:14 of the period. After gaining control off the faceoff, Pittsburgh got the puck to Kennedy, whose wrist shot slipped under Dwayne Roloson’s arm as he was being screened by Eric Tangradi. (Tangradi took Chris Kunitz’s place in the Penguins lineup after Kunitz’s suspension.)
Fortunately the Lightning only trail by a goal, but the Penguins immediately went to work protecting their lead after Kennedy scored the all-important first goal. Pittsburgh made it look easy defensively, as they have for most of the series when both teams are at full strength. The Lightning must figure out a way to get some scoring chances in 5-on-5 situations or they could be in deep trouble.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Wednesday night's Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins is not technically a must-win. But it's pretty close. A win ties their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at two games apiece. A loss sends the series back to Pittsburgh with the Lightning facing elimination in Saturday's Game 5.
The Lightning have dominated the special-teams battle in this series. They have four power-play goals (two each in Games 2 and 3) and they have killed off all 15 of Pittsburgh's man advantages. Yet they trail in the series because of five-on-five play -- the Penguins have a 6-1 goals advantage when both teams are at full strength. (edit: one of the Lightning's even-strength goals was in a 4-on-4.) As coach Guy Boucher told the St. Petersburg Times:
"They're a little sharper around our net five-on-five than we are around their net. We're not going to score five or six goals five-on-five against (Marc-Andre) Fleury. Chances are he might let in one five-on-five, but if we do score one or two on the power play, it has to be enough at home to win a game."
While many aspects of the pre-lockout NHL are hopefully gone forever, one piece of it has resurfaced in this series. The team scoring the first goal has won all three games in the series, and that first goal is critical because the team that scores it can go to work defending that lead. For the Lightning, that means going to a more passive version of their 1-3-1 forecheck. For the Penguins, it's challenging puck-carriers and getting their sticks in the passing and shooting lanes.
The series has also been a physical one. Both teams have landed heavy hits on each other in every game, which is just the way playoff hockey goes. This morning's Tampa Tribune has an article on the hitting in this series, with quotes from Boucher and several players, including captain Vincent Lecavalier:
"Instead of there being 15 hits in a game, there are 40. So you get more beat up for sure. Everybody's shoulders are hurting, everybody is running into the boards 100 mph. It's just more intense. Everybody finishes their checks, because that's just the way the playoffs are."
The hitting crossed the line in Game 3. Both Steve Downie of the Lightning and Chris Kunitz of the Penguins will sit this game out after being suspended by the NHL for their dangerous hits. Each of the suspended players missed significant time this season (Downie was out injured for 25 games, while Kunitz missed 16 with his own injury issues), so their teams are at least a little used to not having them available. The Lightning called up Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola from Norfolk of the AHL, which hints at other lineup changes in addition to filling Downie's spot.
The NHL has handed down one game suspensions to both the Tampa Bay Lightning’s forward Steve Downie and Pittsburgh Penguins LW Chris Kunitz stemming from violent and illegal hits the pair made in game three of the eastern quarterfinals Monday night.
Downie was given a two minute penalty for leaving his feet on a check of Pittsburgh’s Ben Lovejoy and the league felt that his leap towards Lovejoy’s head mixed with Downie’s checkered history was cause enough to dock him one game in the series.
As for Kunitz, his blatant elbow to Simon Gagne’s head was a suspension waiting to happen and its no surprise he is being levied some discipline from the league. Kunitz’s hit was significantly more vicious than Downies play, which many felt was no worse than an average NHL hit and the fact that Kunitz received only the same penalty as Downie is somewhat of a surprise.
Likely as a result of having to play without Downie, the Lightning have recalled both Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola from the Norfolk Admirals for game four. The Bolts trail the Pens 2 games to 1 in the series.
After Monday night's Game 3, word got out from Bob McKenzie of Canadian sports network TSN that the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steve Downie and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Chris Kunitz had been contacted about disciplinary hearings from the league office after both laid dangerous hits on opposing players.
Downie's hit happened in the first period, right before the Penguins' first goal. As Pittsburgh defenseman Ben Lovejoy went behind his own net to play the puck, Downie came rushing in and landed a high, hard hit, leaving his skates in the process. Lovejoy was not injured on the play. A penalty was signaled by the referee, but it was canceled when the Penguins scored on their ensuing rush up the ice.
Kunitz's hit was an elbow to the head of Tampa Bay forward Simon Gagne in the third period. As Gagne was trying to get to a loose puck in the slot, Kunitz caught him with a blindside elbow, precisely the kind of hit the NHL is trying to eliminate from the game. Gagne was OK, Kunitz was given a two-minute minor for elbowing, and the Lightning scored on the subsequent power play.
(Travis Hughes at the SB Nation mother ship has video of both incidents, plus a nasty GIF of the Kunitz elbow that may not be for the faint of heart.)
While the Lightning are used to playing without Downie in the event of a suspension, it could cause major problems for the already shorthanded Penguins to lose Kunitz, one of their only offensive weapons. Then again, this is the NHL, well-known for its ham-fisted, almost random disciplinary action. Put it this way -- only the NHL could inspire a Wheel of Justice Web site that delivers disciplinary rulings with frightening accuracy. (Now with a new "Chris Pronger Mode" for the playoffs that drastically reduces sanctions!)
Tyler Kennedy’s goal at 2:43 of the third period turned out to be the game-winner as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The Penguins now lead the series two games to one.
Kennedy’s goal came after he had helped the Penguins win a faceoff in the Lightning zone. He pushed the puck back to defenseman Kris Letang, who fed the other defenseman, Brooks Orpik, for a one-timer from the top of the slot. Dwayne Roloson made the save, but the puck slid out just past the top of the crease as a pile of players formed in front of him. Dominic Moore lost sight of the puck in the scrum, and Roloson was unable to challenge Kennedy as he collected the rebound and scored.
Only 31 seconds earlier, the Lightning had tied the game on the power play. After Eric Brewer had barely held the puck in the offensive zone, his wrist shot was deflected by Vincent Lecavalier and bounced off Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads right to an open Martin St. Louis. His rebound shot cleared Fleury’s outstretched glove and found the net to tie the game.
After Pittsburgh took the lead, they focused entirely on maintaining the 3-2 advantage, bottling up passing lanes, pressuring the puck-handlers, and swinging sticks all over the ice to deflect pucks and disrupt any chances to tie the game. The Lightning pulled Roloson with a little over a minute to go as they tried to send the game to overtime, but they were unable to get a clean shot. Their best chance was deflected over the net with 10 seconds left after another pile of bodies formed around Fleury’s crease.
Fleury made 25 saves for the Penguins, while Roloson stopped 27 shots in a losing effort. St. Louis scored both Lightning goals on the power play. Arron Asham and Maxime Talbot scored first-period goals for Pittsburgh.
Trailing two games to one, the Lightning likely have to win Game 4, which would tie the series and give them a fighting chance as they return to Pittsburgh. Faceoff is a little after 7:00pm on Wednesday night.
Only one period left in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, where the Penguins still hold a 2-1 lead after a scoreless second period.
Both teams had several good chances to either extend the lead or tie the game. The Lightning overskated fat rebounds allowed by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and had other chances roll off their sticks in scoring range. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s best scoring opportunities came on a power play after Steve Downie shot the puck into the crowd from his own zone for a delay of game penalty. First, defenseman Kris Letang nearly snuck one past Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson after the puck deflected twice on the way to the net. But the puck came to a stop between Roloson’s pads, just short of the goal line. Moments later, James Neal had the puck at the right post with Roloson down on the ice, but somehow it stayed out of the net.
Lightning forward Ryan Malone briefly left the game with an upper-body injury. While his return was initially listed as questionable, he was back on the ice a few minutes later. It’s the playoffs.
The Pittsburgh Penguins lead the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 after one period in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. Two goals 45 seconds apart by the Penguins’ Maxime Talbot and Arron Asham stunned the Lightning, but they recovered with a power-play goal by Martin St. Louis late in the period.
At the 5:46 mark of the first period, Talbot scored to give Pittsburgh the lead. The play started when Lightning forward Steve Downie hammered Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy behind the net, drawing a delayed penalty. But it was never called, because Lovejoy managed to get the puck to Talbot first, and Talbot brought it all the way up the ice and beat Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson with a stoppable wrist shot to the glove side.
Less than a minute later, two mistakes by Tampa Bay’s defensive pair led to a 2-0 deficit. Victor Hedman tried to take Penguins forward Mike Rupp out of the play at the blue line, but missed his check. Rupp got around Hedman and broke in with Asham for a 2-on-1. The other Lightning defenseman on the play, Pavel Kubina, tried to take away the pass, but he didn’t get down to the ice fast enough. The puck slid under him to a wide-open Asham, who easily put the one-timer past Roloson.
The Lightning cut the lead to 2-1 at 15:19. On a scramble in front of the Penguins net during a power play, Martin St. Louis got to a loose puck and lifted a backhander over Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads. Steven Stamkos got an assist on the play, his first-ever point in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Tampa Bay will need to kill a penalty to begin the second period after Vincent Lecavalier took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with only 12 seconds left in the first.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins shifts to the St. Pete Times Forum for Monday night's Game 3. With the best-of-seven series tied at a game apiece, the Lightning can put some serious pressure on the Penguins with a win. Faceoff is a little after 7:30pm, and the game will be televised by Sun Sports.
Although the Lightning rolled to a 5-1 win in Friday's Game 2, there's still concern about the ongoing slump that Steven Stamkos is in. Stamkos finished with 45 goals on the season, but he only scored five in his last 28 regular-season games and he has yet to find the scoresheet in the playoffs. Which begs the question that the team's marketing department was asking during the summer of 2008 -- Seen Stamkos?
Stamkos talked with the media for awhile after Sunday's practice in Brandon, and talked about what he learned from his first-ever Stanley Cup playoff games:
"It's different. You can say all you want and watch as many playoff games as I did over the past couple of years. Until you play in one, you don't realize how intense it is, how hard you have to compete. Everyone's coming to take your head off out there, and you've still got to be able to be patient and make the play."
Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone knows what Stamkos is going through. His playoff debut in 2007 with the Penguins was a rough one, and he talked to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his experience and the adjustment period that comes from reaching the playoffs for the first time.
"We got pinned in our end the first 10 minutes of the first game [against Ottawa in 2007]," Malone recalled. "It felt like they had 10 guys on the ice."
"[Stamkos] has played two playoff games. They always say the playoffs are different, but you don't really know that until you play in them. Even myself, you learn something after every playoff game. That's what the real hockey is about.
"You think you had a good regular season, but it all comes down to the playoffs and what you can do. It's a learning experience for everybody. I think [Stamkos] is learning that as well right now."
Lightning coach Guy Boucher, as he often does, changed up his line combinations regularly during Game 2. Stamkos saw time on the top scoring line, and also on a checking line, but he didn't view it as a demotion:
"We're going to go with what works and who is going. I think we've seen that all year. I got switched to wing and came back. That's kind of Coach Boucher's style. I think it helps in the playoffs when you can get guys moving around and maybe screwing up their D pairings."
On the Penguins' side, the focus was on beating Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 defensive system through the neutral zone. Along with spending time during their practice working on rushes up the ice to beat the 1-3-1, they tried to figure out how to breathe some life into their power play, which sits at 0-for-13 so far in the series. But with no sign of Sidney Crosby returning to the lineup and Evgeni Malkin done for the year, there may only be so much the team can do to jump start the power play.
For more Lightning coverage, visit Raw Charge, SB Nation's Lightning blog.
Holding a three-goal third-period lead, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to sit back and defend against a Pittsburgh Penguins comeback. They withstood the Penguins’ challenge easily, and Mattias Ohlund added an empty-net, shorthanded goal to finish a 5-1 win that tied their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at one game apiece.
Eric Brewer scored the first goal of the game and added two assists, while Simon Gagne tied a Lightning playoff record with three assists. Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis each scored power-play goals, and Nate Thompson’s goal gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead after one period.
Dwayne Roloson made 35 saves for the Lightning, and the penalty-killing unit remains perfect through two games as Pittsburgh was 0-for-7 with the man advantage in Game 2. The Lightning’s 1-3-1 defensive setup frustrated the Penguins for much of the game and made sure that Tampa Bay’s early lead was never threatened.
Game 3 of this series is on Monday night at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Faceoff is 7:30pm.
For more Lightning coverage, visit Raw Charge, SB Nation’s Lightning blog.
Pittsburgh’s goal was the result of a mental error by Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson. After a dump-in, Roloson left his net to play the puck near the goal line, even though his defensemen had time to recover it for him. Then it skipped off his stick and went into the area where goalies are not allowed to handle the puck. Roloson had to quickly return to his net as the Penguins’ Arron Asham recovered the puck and took a shot. Roloson made the save, but Craig Adams scored on the rebound.
The goal triggered a surge by the Penguins, who looked to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to one. But the Lightning defense and Roloson recovered to keep Pittsburgh off the board. Then with just 14 seconds left in the period, after a cross-checking penalty on the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik, Tampa Bay started the power play with a set piece they’ve cashed in on repeatedly over the last few weeks. Martin St. Louis shot a puck along the goal line, looking for Vincent Lecavalier to tap it in. That wasn’t necessary, though, as the puck bounced off Marc-Andre Fleury’s pad and crossed the goal line before he could recover it.
The Lightning are one period away from tying the series and taking home-ice advantage with them to Tampa, but will have to hold off another Penguins charge in the third.
Looking to tie their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at one game apiece, the Tampa Bay Lightning have started off Game 2 with a bang. Goals by Eric Brewer, Vincent Lecavalier, and Nate Thompson have given Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins after one period.
The scoring started early. With Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis both in the penalty box and the teams skating four on four, Brewer zipped a shot by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to give Tampa Bay its first goal and lead of the series.
At the 6:53 mark, the Lightning added to their lead on the power play when Lecavalier scored at the front of the net off a feed from Simon Gagne. Then with a little less than three minutes left in the period, Penguins defenseman Paul Martin fumbled a puck at center ice. Steve Downie took possession, broke in on Fleury and took a low wrist shot. Fleury made the save, but gave up a big rebound and was out of position for Thompson’s follow-up shot, which found an open net.
Through one period, the Lightning are hitting back after a few highlight-reel checks from Pittsburgh in Game 1, and they’re scoring back as well. It may be tough for the Penguins to keep up on the scoreboard without their two biggest offensive weapons.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins resume their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal with Friday night's Game 2 from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Faceoff is a little after 7:00pm, with TV coverage from Sun Sports.
After dropping Game 1 by a 3-0 count, Tampa Bay will be looking to even the series and take home ice away from Pittsburgh. While his team put 32 shots on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Lightning coach Guy Boucher was not entirely pleased with the offensive execution.
"We know we're encountering an amazing goaltender, who can win a game by himself. But we also know there's a lot of instances where our guys weren't in the right space to make something happen... It's going to take more than just a free shot. It's going to take a second and third chance at it, and that's pretty much what the playoffs are about."
Martin St. Louis will be in the lineup tonight after being high-sticked in the mouth by Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek. St. Louis underwent a late-night double root canal to replace the two front teeth that Michalek knocked out without being called for a penalty. But St. Louis has played in all 46 of the Lightning's playoff games since 2003, and he knows now is not the time for revenge.
"I'm not going to let my emotions get the better of me and hurt my team," St. Louis said. "We've talked among ourselves. We know what we have to rectify. And I know we'll come out and play a strong game."
After tonight's game, the series shifts back to Tampa for Game 3 on Monday at 7:30pm from the St. Pete Times Forum.
For complete Lightning coverage, visit Raw Charge, SB Nation's Lightning blog.
Two goals by Alex Kovalev and Arron Asham 18 seconds apart in the third period gave the Pittsburgh Penguins the cushion they needed to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. A Chris Kunitz empty-net goal made the final score 3-0.
With the game still scoreless, Pavel Kubina and Kovalev collided near the Penguins' net, breaking the Lightning defenseman's stick in the process. The Lightning started out of the defensive zone, and Kubina followed in to get a new stick (playing with a broken stick is illegal). However, the puck was turned over before the Bolts cleared the zone, Kovalev was all alone behind the play, and James Neal spotted him for a slam-dunk goal.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Penguins collected the puck behind their own net. Kris Letang fed a pass to a breaking Asham, who faked goalie Dwayne Roloson out of position, skated around Eric Brewer, then went around the net and beat Roloson to the far post for a 2-0 lead.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves for the shutout, and he was both good and lucky — a dangerous combination. (The Lightning’s night on offense was epitomized by Martin St. Louis missing a completely open net in the third period when the puck came to him while Fleury was trapped behind the goal.) Tampa Bay did finally sustain some offensive pressure in the last five minutes of the game, and even though they didn’t solve the Penguins’ potential Hart Trophy candidate, it could give them some positive vibes heading into Friday’s Game 2.
The Penguins lead the series 1-0, which resumes on Friday at 7:30pm in Pittsburgh.
To lick your wounds (possibly caused by Pittsburgh high-sticks) with other Lightning fans, visit SB Nation’s Lightning blog, Raw Charge.
The Tampa Bay Lightning should be fortunate that Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pittsburgh Penguins is still scoreless after two periods. Pittsburgh dominated the period, outshooting Tampa Bay 18-7 and getting several outstanding scoring chances.
After killing off the Lightning’s first (and so far only) power play to start the period, the Penguins recorded seven shots on their own man advantage a few minutes later. Jordan Staal nearly got Pittsburgh on the board, but Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson flashed across the crease to deny him a tap-in goal.
Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie both caught high sticks to the face in corner scrums during the second period. St. Louis lost a tooth and had blood coming out of his mouth, but both he and Downie quickly returned. Neither high stick was called by the officials, who seem to be allowing a lot of interference and body contact. This officiating style would favor the less skilled but more physical Penguins.
By the end of the period, the Lightning took a series of icing calls as they tried to hang on until the intermission. But this left their defenders stuck on the ice and coach Guy Boucher was forced to use his one timeout to get them some rest. With the game seemingly destined for a 1-0 finish, overtime, or both, that missing timeout could be a factor later.
The Lightning outshot the Penguins 14-10 in the first period and had the better scoring chances overall, though both teams were successful in keeping each other out of the prime scoring areas. The Lightning’s game plan appears to be getting shots on Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, and then trying to capitalize on rebounds and traffic in front. Tampa Bay’s best scoring chance was a 2-on-1 where defenseman Brett Clark decided to shoot instead of passing to an open Martin St. Louis on his right. They also nearly scored on a low shot by Eric Brewer from the top of the slot that changed direction twice. Dominic Moore briefly started celebrating, thinking Brewer’s shot had gone in, and then Ryan Malone spotted the puck loose in the crease and tried a shot from a bad angle that was kicked away by Fleury.
Pittsburgh had three power plays in the first period, but did not have any quality scoring chances. Their best shot of the period was a shot off the outside of the post by Tyler Kennedy from the left faceoff circle.
One thing to keep an eye on – the ice does not appear to be in great shape. The puck bounced quite a bit during the first period, and some squeegee work was needed around the Penguins net before the second period began.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2007, and their quest to win the franchise's second Cup begins tonight with Game 1 of their first-round matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tonight's game starts at 7:00pm from the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, airing on Sun Sports.
The big question leading into the series is whether Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will be able to play. Crosby last played on January 5 against the Lightning, when he suffered a concussion after a hit by Victor Hedman into the glass. It's still not clear whether Crosby had already been feeling any ill effects from a head shot by Washington's David Steckel in the Winter Classic a few days earlier, but regardless, he has not been in the Pittsburgh lineup since that game. While Crosby has been skating with the team at practices during the past couple of weeks, his return is still uncertain. Without him, Tampa Bay has a decided advantage in offensive firepower, because the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin was also lost for the season in early February with a torn ACL. Besides Crosby, Kris Letang was the only other Penguin to reach 50 points (8 goals, 42 assists). Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz must continue to be the offensive leaders for Pittsburgh to advance.
Without Crosby and Malkin, Pittsburgh has reinvented themselves as a defensive-oriented team. Since Crosby left the lineup, the Penguins have allowed either zero or one goal in a game 11 times, and they finished with the NHL's top-ranked penalty killing unit at 86.2%. That defensive focus may have helped Marc-Andre Fleury record a 2.18 goals-against average and receive some Hart Trophy buzz. But it was truly a team effort, led by Letang, Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek, and a group of hard-nosed, two-way forwards.
While the Penguins are low on scorers, the Lightning have all of theirs ready to go after breaking out of a prolonged slump that spanned most of March and may have cost them a division title. Steven Stamkos (45 goals) and Martin St. Louis (a career-high 99 points) are the offensive leaders, while captain Vincent Lecavalier made a late push to finish with 25 goals and 54 points in 65 games. Simon Gagne, Ryan Malone, and sparkplug Steve Downie also fought injuries during the regular season, but they're all healthy heading into the postseason. The Lightning were also strong on special teams, ranking fifth in the NHL with a 20.5% success rate on the power play, and eighth in the league with an 83.8% penalty kill rate. Stamkos finished with 17 power-play goals on the season, second only to Vancouver's Daniel Sedin. If they can continue scoring goals in this series, it will be hard for the depleted Penguins to keep up.
Tampa Bay's issues are on defense and in goal. While two midseason additions (defenseman Eric Brewer and goaltender Dwayne Roloson) were beneficial, the Lightning still gave up 240 goals this season, the most of any playoff team. There were several tailspin losses bloating that total, a possible byproduct of coach Guy Boucher's aggressive offensive system. But this is not exactly a lockdown defensive group. They also are vulnerable to allowing shorthanded goals. The Lightning led the NHL with 16 shorties allowed, and the Penguins tied for second with 13 short-handed goals scored.
Fortunately the series should be low on fisticuffs and questionable behavior. Pittsburgh owner Mario Lemieux was especially vocal about hits to the head after an ugly game against the New York Islanders in February, and his team will be without all-around miscreant Matt Cooke for this series. The NHL suspended Cooke for the last 10 games of the regular season and this entire series after he landed an elbow to the jaw of the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh on March 22. The Penguins seem to be making a concerted effort to rid themselves of bad actors (they fully supported the Cooke suspension), and it would be out of character for the Lightning to begin gooning it up at this point in the season.
It all boils down to a classic offense vs. defense battle in this series. Which (and who) will prevail?
Follow Tampa Bay on their Stanley Cup playoff run at Raw Charge, SB Nation's Lightning blog.
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