The Pittsburgh Penguins took care of the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night by a score of 4-2. The Penguins were led by their red-hot “HBK” line, made up of Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, and Nick Bonino, who combined for 5 points (2G, 3A)
The Tampa Bay Lightning looked to avenge their 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night. The Lightning looked to use their home ice advantage in their favor to go up in the series. Tampa was once again without Vezina nominated goaltender Ben Bishop for the second straight game. They turned to their 21-year-old goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in hope for another solid performance from the youngster.
Tonight’s contest started with both teams trading chances back and forth but no team could gain the full momentum. We would then finally get the game’s first prime scoring chance 9:02 into the opening frame. Pens superstar center Sidney Crosby found the puck in his feet behind Tampa’s net. Crosby was being pressured behind the net by the Lightning defender and dished a beautiful no-look between the legs backhand pass to fellow linemate Patric Hornqvist who received the puck to Vasilevskiy’s right and threw a quick snap shot on net. Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy was up to the task and denied Hornqvist chance with his blocker and kept the score tied at zero.
We would then get our games first man power advantage. Pittsburgh winger Patric Hornqvist would get a two-minute call for slashing Tampa vet Ryan Callahan at 17:42 of the first period. This would send Tampa to their first power play of the game. The Pens penalty killers were huge and did not allow a single shot and killed off the penalty. With 2 seconds remaining in the period the Penguins had a faceoff in the offensive zone. Tampa center Brian Boyle would try and beat Pens center Sidney Crosby and close out the period with no damage done. Well, Boyle won the faceoff with ease and pulled the puck back hoping that his fellow defender would grab the puck and waste the remaining time on the clock. Unfortunately, his D-man missed the puck and it went right to the Pittsburgh D-man Trevor Daley who was in deep looking for a shot. Daley flipped right to his backhand and tried lifting the puck over Vasilevskiy’s glove. Vasy was right there to shut down the opportunity with a strong glove save.
The first period would end with the score 0-0 with the Penguins basically dominating Tampa the first 10-15 minutes of the period. While the Lightning would get a little momentum towards the end of the period.
Pittsburgh would get their first power play chance just 3:57 into the second period. Tampa winger Ryan Callahan would get the trip to the sin bin for holding Pens winger Chris Kunitz. Pittsburgh would turn to their dormant PP in the hope of striking first. The Pens would get three excellent scoring chances that were all turned away thanks to stellar goaltending from Andrei Vasilevski. Tampa would also get a great scoring chance thanks to winger Ondrej Palat shorthanded. Palat would get the puck right in front of Pens goalie Matt Murray. Palat would grab Valtteri Filppula’s rebound from Murray and throw a little backhand on net after Murray was way out of position. The shot would have gone in but Pens defender Kris Letang was there to sweep the puck away and back into Murray for the whistle. After both teams had a flurry of chances to open the scoring but the score still sat at 0-0.
Tampa would get the best scoring chance of the game so far 9:49 into the middle period. Lightning grinder Brian Boyle would receive a pass on the left-hand dot from a teammate. Boyle quickly unleashed a nasty one-timer that beat Pens goalie Matt Murray low short side blocker but not the post, it hit iron and came right back out.
Pittsburgh would counter with their best chance of the game almost three minutes later. Pens center Nick Bonino in his own zone, spotted fellow winger Phil Kessel streaking down the right-hand side. Bonino fired a rocket of a pass to Kessel and sent him in all alone on a breakaway. Kessel got to the top of the right-hand circle and let a wrister go towards the net. Vasilevskiy made the save look easy and swallowed the shot right into his chest to keep the Pens from scoring again.
FINALLY after all these shots and chances from both squads we would get the games first goal with just 10 seconds remaining in period two thanks to the HBK line. The play started with Pens winger Phil Kessel making a great play and intercepting Tampa’s Jonathan Drouin’s pass high in the defensive zone. Kessel would then turn on the jets and beat Lightning defender Victor Hedman down the right-hand boards. Kessel would drive down the right side and throw a shot far side that was turned aside from Vasilevskiy right pad. Regrettably, Vasy kicked the puck into the slot and left a juicy rebound just sitting in the slot. Pittsburgh winger Carl Hagelin would beat coverage from lazy D-man Braydon Coburn, pounce on the loose puck, and put home the rebound to open the Pens scoring tab at 1-0.
The second period would end with the score being 1-0. Pittsburgh would again COMPLETLY control the second period. They threw 21 shots on net and only gave up 6, and yes this was ONLY in period two. Tampa’s only strong suit in the period was from their goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who kept them in the game with a number of solid saves. If Tampa looks to come back from their 1-0 deficit they will need to get more shots, and keep the pressure off of Vasy.
Pittsburgh would then double their lead to 2-0. The dominate HBK line would apply more and more pressure and it eventually paid off again. Pens winger Nick Bonino would get the puck behind the net after a lengthy time of cycling down below the goal line. Bonino would dish the puck to fellow winger Phil Kessel on the low left-hand dot. Kessel would get the puck and quickly fire a laser top cheese and beat Vasy high glove side.
Just 14 seconds later Tampa would get one back and cut into the Pens lead. This time, it was Tampa’s red hot triplet line that got the goal. Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who sat in his own defensive zone, saw fellow winger Nikita Kucherov at the far blue line. Palat wired a tape to tape pass to Kucherov who caught the pass and skated into the offensive zone. Kucherov left a backhand pass in the high slot to streaking center Tyler Johnson who grabbed the puck and skated in on a mini breakaway. Johnson fired the puck blocker side that beat goalie Matt Murray under the arm and made the score 2-1.
A little over three and a half minutes later Pens D-man Kris Letang and Tampa winger Ondrej Palat each got a two-minute roughing minor after the whistle. So we still played even strength hockey as those penalties offset. Just 48 seconds later Lightning defender Braydon Coburn took a terrible penalty by elbowing Pens winger Carl Hagelin who was entering the zone. This sent the Pens to their second power play of the game as they looked to restore their two-goal lead playing 4 on 3 hockey. Pittsburgh’s wish would pay off thanks to a stellar power play at the 10:50 mark of the final period. Pens star Sidney Crosby would dish the puck to center Evgeni Malkin high in the center of the slot and top of their umbrella on the PP. Malkin quickly threw the puck back Crosby’s way on top of the right-hand dot. Crosby fired a wicked one-timer that beat Vasilevsky high glove short side to increase their lead to 3-1.
Pittsburgh would tally again at 13:12 of the third period. This goal was a confusing one as the puck was bouncing all over the place. Vasy made a great save in close on a tough Penguins shot. The rebound sat in the slot and Tampa back checker Cedric Paquette would blindly backhand the puck out of the slot to, what he thought was, the right-hand corner out of harms way. Sadly, he passed the puck right to Penguins’ winger Chris Kunitz who grabbed the puck and beat a surprising Andrei Vasilevsky short side to stretch the score to 4-1.
The Lightning would take another penalty a minute later with another pointless call from Tampa defenseman Braydon Coburn who caught Pens winger Bryan Rust up high with his stick. Tampa was able to halt the bleeding and stop the scoring onslaught and kill off the penalty. Then with 1:44 left in the game Tampa was able to grab a consolation goal. Lightning defender Matt Carle passed the puck to winger Nikita Kucherov on the left side boards. Kucherov slid down the side and dished the puck to Ondrej Palat in the high slot who ripped another one-timer high glove side on Matt Murray to cut the score to 4-2.
With 19 seconds left in the game, a minor scrum ensued between the two teams. After everything got settled down three penalties were handed out, one to Pittsburgh and two to Tampa Bay. Pens D-man Trevor Daley got a two-minute roughing call and Tampa winger Alex Killorn getting a roughing call as well as a 10-minute misconduct.
The game ended with Pittsburgh winning comfortably 4-2. Pens goalie Matt Murray stopped 26 out of 28 shots for a .929 SV% while opposing goalie Andrei Vasilevsky stopped 44 out of an insane 48 shots for a .917 SV%. Pittsburgh led in shots (48-28), and faceoffs (34-30). While Tampa led in hits (30-16), blocked shots (13-12), giveaways (11-8), and penalty minutes (20-6). Pittsburgh went 1/3 on the PP while Tampa Bay went 0/3.
These two clubs will take a day off and play again on Friday night here in Tampa, Florida with puck drop at 8 pm. Tampa will hopefully get goalie Ben Bishop back in net from injury.