By: Nick Lanciani
Sidney Crosby scored just 40 seconds into overtime to help the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on home ice at CONSOL Energy Center in Game 2 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final.
The goal was Crosby’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff overtime winner and the Penguins improved to 3-1 in games past regulation this postseason. Matt Murray made 19 saves on 21 shots faced for a .905 SV% in the win.
Despite a tremendous 38 save effort on 41 shots face, Andrei Vasilevskiy’s .927 SV% wasn’t enough for the Lightning to pull off their second straight victory on road ice in the series. Tampa fell to 2-1 in games that have lasted longer than 60 minutes this postseason. With Ben Bishop out of the lineup with a lower body injury, Vasilevskiy was called upon to start in goal. Including Monday night’s effort, Vasilevskiy has never won a playoff game in which he has started through seven career playoff appearances. He’s won twice in relief efforts, however.
Pittsburgh tied a franchise record, per Elias Sports Bureau, with their third overtime playoff win this year (a team record they’ve recorded in 2001 and most recently in 2009— which was also the year they won their third Stanley Cup).
Monday night saw the return of Anton Stralman to the lineup for Tampa Bay. Stralman had been out since March 25th with a fractured tibia. Bishop was out of the lineup as expected for the Bolts, but Ryan Callahan was a late scratch due to the flu. Game time decision, Justin Schultz, was in the lineup for the Penguins in Game 2.
Matt Cullen kicked off a tumultuous first period of scoring with his 4th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 4:32 of the first period. Cullen fired a snap shot past Vasilevskiy on the rebound to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Eric Fehr (1) and Tom Kuhnhackl (4) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Cullen’s goal.
Phil Kessel followed up with a goal of his own a little over five minutes later to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead, just 9:37 into the game. The goal was Kessel’s 6th of the postseason and was assisted by Nick Bonino (9) and Carl Hagelin (5).
Fans inside CONSOL Energy Center seemed quite pleased with an early two-goal lead, less than half a period into the game, despite the news that the Lightning sent out earlier on Monday that Penguins fans would be asked to remove their Pittsburgh garb if they are seated in certain sections for Games 3 and 4 at Amalie Arena.
Penalties only seemed to motivate the Tampa Bay Lightning, as they seemed to lead to goals for the Bolts almost three minutes after each penalty kill.
Alex Killorn took a minor penalty for holding Crosby at 13:23 of the first period and gave Pittsburgh their first power play of the night. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), the Penguins were unable to convert on the man advantage.
Anton Stralman led a breakout for Tampa and fired a wrist shot on Murray that beat him and cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half to make it 2-1. Stralman scored his first goal in his first game back since being injured. Jonathan Marchessault (1) and Victor Hedman (7) were awarded the assists on Stralman’s goal.
At 16:53 of the first period, Jonathan Drouin hooked Kessel and was sent to the penalty box. Shortly after being freed from the sin bin, Drouin capitalized on the Lightning’s momentum after a successful penalty kill.
Drouin received the puck from J.T. Brown and fired a wrist shot past Murray to tie the game at 2 with about 50 seconds left in the period before the first intermission. Matt Carle was given the secondary assist.
After twenty minutes of play, the Penguins were outshooting the Lightning 14-8 and leading in hits (18-13) and faceoff wins (10-8). Tampa Bay, on the other hand, led in takeaways (2-1) and blocked shots (5-3) after one. Neither team committed an official giveaway, nor had converted on the man advantage, with the Lightning yet to even having seen a power play and the Penguins failing to score on two power play opportunities.
Ondrej Palat had an excellent scoring chance broken up by Murray as the Pittsburgh netminder tripped up Palat. Kessel served the tripping minor charged to Murray and Tampa went on their first power play of the night at 7:02 of the second period. Tampa was unable to convert on what would be their one and only man advantage on Monday night.
At one point Vasilevskiy made an unbelievable glove save, flashing the leather and keeping the score tied.
With forty minutes in the books, the score was still 2-2 and the Lightning had begun to swing some of the game stats in their direction, despite still being outshot (22-15) and outhit (32-25). Tampa was leading in faceoff wins (22-19), takeaways (5-4) and blocked shots (12-7) heading into the third period.
Despite swapping countless scoring chances and save after save being made and matched at each end by the spectacular effort of the goalies, there were no goals in the third period. There weren’t any penalties either, which led to plenty of action packed transition hockey and breakout opportunities.
Pittsburgh regained a dominant lead in shots on goal (38-21) after regulation and led in hits (47-36), giveaways (9-3), as well as takeaways (7-5) heading into overtime. The Lightning barely led in faceoff wins (33-32) and held a 17-13 advantage in blocked shots after sixty minutes of play.
From the puck drop in overtime the Pens entered the offensive zone and fired off two quick shots on Vasilevskiy. Tampa’s defense had struggled to defend in the first half of the first period and showed signs of sluggish play in the first 30 seconds of overtime. But all it took was 40 seconds for the game to be over when Bryan Rust flipped the puck over to Crosby, who in turn riffled a wrist shot by the blocker side of Vasilevskiy for the game-winning overtime goal.
The goal was Crosby’s 4th of the playoffs and was assisted by Rust (2) and Brian Dumoulin (5).
The Penguins had won Game 2 by a score of 3-2 and tied the series 1-1 less than a minute into sudden death overtime as they regained some momentum on home ice after dropping Game 1 in the series. The Lightning were grateful to have tied the game— and kept it close— in the manner they did, but yearned for a 2-0 series lead heading home for Game 3, but it wasn’t meant to be.
And with that, the series shifts to Tampa, Florida for Game 3 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET and the game can be seen on NBCSN for American viewers and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.