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.