The Pittsburgh Penguins blew two leads; a 2-0 lead, and a 3-2 lead late in the game and lost a heartbreaker to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Overtime. This win puts the Lightning up 3-2 in the series and are now one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second year in a row.
The Pittsburgh Penguins looked to get back into the win column tonight at home. After dominating Games 2 and 3, the Pens were outworked in a Game 4 loss. Pittsburgh was welcomed to see that WWE Hall-of-Fame legend The Heartbreak Kid aka Shawn Micheals would be in attendance for tonight game. The Penguins 3rd line, better known as the HBK line, made up of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel has been on fire as of late. Shawn Michaels has inspired all Pittsburgh fans to now call this line the HBK line and the Pens invited him to come out to the game and he did! So Michaels hoped he could see the Pens pull out a win.
The Penguins turned to their 12-year vet, goaltender Marc-André Fleury for his first start since March 31st. Fleury has not played since the end of March because he was battling a concussion. The Penguins were going with newcomer Matt Murray in hopes that he could spark the team and go on a long run. They were right and Murray was the backbone of the team and led them all the way to Round 3, the Conference Finals. Sadly, after Murray’s last performance in the Game 4 loss, he was pulled at the start of the third period due to the fact that he let in 4 goals on 30 total shots for a measly .867 SV%. Murray has appeared in a total of 13 games in this year’s playoffs going 9-4-1 with a .923 SV% and a 2.33 GAA. Pittsburgh is making the right call going with Fleury for Game 5. This game is also Fleury’s 100th career playoff game.
Now on to the long list of injuries. As expected, Tampa goalie Ben Bishop, who has been out since his lower-body-injury in Game 1, is sidelined again for the 4th consecutive game. Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos, who also has not played since the end of March due to a blood clot, is still not able to suit up. The Penguins have scratched winger Conor Sheary who has not scored a goal since April 23rd. Beau Bennett has been given the nod to play tonight. This will be Bennett’s first game of the playoffs this year, and his first game since April 5th at Ottawa. On the other hand, Pens lockdown D-man Trevor Daley will miss the rest of the postseason, no matter how far Pittsburgh gets, due to a broken left ankle suffered in Game 4. Pittsburgh will welcome D-man Olli Maatta back into the lineup. Maatta has been dealing with a lingering injury suffered against the Capitals in Round 2 and some poor play that has held him in and out of the lineup. The Penguins will have to rely on the play of D-man Kris Letang more if they will want to shut down the strong forwards of the Lightning.
The game started out with both teams flying out of the gate and being very physical with each other. The two clubs combined for a total of 13 hits within the first nine minutes of the opening frame. So you could tell that both teams aren’t messing around and want an early edge over the other squad.
We would get the game’s first penalty with them being coincidental. Tampa defender Matt Carle and Pens center Evgeni Malkin both getting the gate for unsportsmanlike conduct at 9:11 of the first period. We would play 4 on 4 hockey for 1:25 until the Lightning would get the games first true penalty. Tampa center Tyler Johnson would get a two-minute call for hooking Pens captain Sidney Crosby. With this call the Pens would play 35 seconds of 4 on 3 man advantage, they were not able to score or apply pressure. The coincidental would expire and both teams would get their players back and they would play a regular 5 on 4 power play for 1:25. Pittsburgh only managed one shot and Tampa killed it off.
Pittsburgh would get on the board first, but would barely beat the buzzer. It all started with a great play by Pens winger Chris Kunitz who would get the puck on the left-hand boards by the blue line in his own zone. Kunitz would make a beautiful play to chip the puck past pinching Tampa defender Anton Stralman and up to a streaking teammate, Bryan Rust in the neutral zone. Rust would grab the pass and beat opposing defender Victor Hedman wide and go in on a mini breakaway. Rust was able to hold of the back checking of Hedman and get off a wimpy shot in close that was saved by a stretched out Andrei Vasilevskiy and his right pad. The rebound was sat right on top of the goalie crease for anyone to grab. Meanwhile behind the play, Pens defender Brian Dumoulin jumped up in the play when he realized that the time was running out in the period. Dumoulin beat Tampa grinder Brian Boyle to the net and shoveled home the rebound with .7 seconds left in the period to put the Pens on the board at 1-0. This goal was Dumoulin’s first goal in 103 games (he did not score in the regular season playing 79 games), his first ever playoff goal, and his second ever career goal in the NHL.
The second period would start with it being all Penguins, and as a result, the Pens would double their lead. Pittsburgh would bring the puck into the zone with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby skating down to the right boards to the hash marks. Crosby would post up and spot Pens D-man Olli Maatta wide open in the middle of the ice at the point. Maatta would receive the pass and quickly fire a shot pass to winger Carl Hagelin who peeled open at the top of the goalie crease on the left side. Hagelin would direct the pass to fellow winger Patric Hornqvist on top of the crease to the right side. Hornqvist would then tap the puck into the wide open net to increase the Pens lead to 2-0. This was Hornqvist’s 7th goal of the playoffs.
Tampa would get their first power play of the game, and their first real chance to cut into Pittsburgh’s deficit. Pens D-man Kris Letang would get a two-minute trip to the box for slashing Tampa youngster Jonathan Drouin. Tampa’s power play has been struggling lately as they are just 2/8 in the series coming into Game 5. The Lightning would get their best chance of the game with the PP coming to an end. Defender Victor Hedman would get the puck at the point and come right down the middle of the ice. Hedman would fake a shot and dish it off to center Tyler Johnson at the side of the net. Johnson had the whole top of the net to shoot at. He one-timed the puck and was completely ROBBED by the stretched out toe of goalie Marc-André Fleury as he pushed from his left to his right to keep the score at 2-0 and kill the penalty.
Just about four minutes later the Pens would go back to their second manpower advantage of the game. Tampa winger Nikita Kucherov would get the gate for holding winger Bryan Rust. The Penguins would only get two shots on the net and could not capitalize.
The Tampa Bay Lightning would then score just 13 seconds after they killed off the penalty at 13:15 of the middle period. Tampa defender Andrej Sustr would hold the puck in at the right side hash marks and play the puck around the back of the net. Winger Alex Killorn would grab the puck at the left side hash marks skate in a foot and absolutely let a laser of a wrist shot go that beat Fleury high short side over the blocker to get the Bolts on the board and trim the Pens lead to 2-1. Tampa would then tie the game up 1:10 seconds later at the 14:25 mark. Again Lightning D-man Andrej Sustr would carry the puck into the same spot on the right side but he ended up losing the puck. Luckily, grinder Vladislav Namesnikov would pick up the loose puck, carry on towards the net and find an open Nikita Kucherov on the left hash marks in the slot. Namesnikov hit Kucherov right in his wheelhouse and Kucherov let a gnarly one-t snap-shot go into the wide open net before Fleury could get there to tie the game up at 2-2. This was Kucherov’s 10th goal of the playoffs which now puts him in a tie for first in the league with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.
Once again, the Pens would strike as the period would expire. Penguins defender Olli Maatta would carry the puck into the zone through the middle and dangle his way past the net and below the goal line on the right side. Maata would stop on a dime, turn around, and feed winger Evgeni Malkin in the slot. Malkin would grab the puck, fight off a falling Tampa defender, turn around, and fire a wrist shot on net. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy would make the save on top of the crease but let the rebound fall right in front of him. Before Vasy could dive and fall on the puck, Pens winger Chris Kunitz would bat the puck out of mid-air just before Vasy could get it with his glove. The puck would go right under Vasy’s body, through his legs, and into the net. The goal came with 50 seconds remaining in the second period to gain the lead back and make it 3-2.
The Penguins are 46-0-0 (regular season and playoffs) when leading after two periods this season. They are the ONLY team to win every game when leading at this point. So if the Lightning want to be the first to beat them, they will have to jump out early in the final period and gain some momentum.
With just 2:36 gone in the final period Tampa would go back on the power play. Pens defender Olli Maatta would get a double minor for catching Lightning’s Slater Koekkoek up high with his stick. So Tampa would have a four minutes power play in hopes of tying the game. With around two minutes gone in the four-minute man advantage center, Tyler Johnson would get called for interference on Pens defender Kris Letang. This penalty on Johnson would nullify the rest of Tampa’s power play and they would play 1:53 of 4 on 4 hockey. The 4 on 4 hockey did not result in anything so once Maatta’s double minor expired, the Pens would get a brief 6 seconds of PP time but could not do anything.
With 3:52 left in the game, Tampa winger Ryan Callahan came down the left-hand side with the puck. Callahan skated to the dot and put a beauty of a wrist shot towards the net. The puck hit Fleury’s jersey near his arm, deflected off the post, and across the goal line but stayed out! Tampa was inches away from tying this contest up. Then just 36 seconds later, Tampa was able to get their tying goal. Winger Nikita Kucherov skating down the left side with the puck and dropped a nice backhand pass to fellow linemate Tyler Johnson at the left boards. Johnson put a shot on the net that was padded aside by Fleury. Regrettably, the puck fell to the boards behind the net where Kucherov was there to pick it up. Kucherov grabbed the puck and instantly wrapped around to the other side of the net and beat Fleury’s pad to the post and knotted this game up at 3-3 with 3:16 to go in the final frame. This was Kucherov’s second goal of the game (11th) which now puts him in sole position of first place for goals.
The third period ended with the score still the same at 3-3 and went into over time. The only reason why the Penguins never scored again so far in the game is because the stellar play of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasy was amazing making a numerous amount of clutch saves. This is the second time in the series these two teams would play OT. Pittsburgh won Game 2 in OT. Tampa is 2-1 in OT games in the playoffs and Pittsburgh is 3-1.
As the overtime started, both teams were hoping to end this game early. That hope was fulfilled by one team, that team? The Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa’s first line was in on the attack in the offensive zone. Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who was on the right side hash marks, passed the puck up to Nikita Kucherov in the middle at the blue line. Kucherov accepted the pass and immediately passed the puck over to D-man Jason Garrison who slide down to the dot of the left-hand circle. Garrison put a wrist shot on net that ended up deflecting off center Tyler Johnson’s backside and ricocheting into the net for the game-winner only 53 seconds into extra time.
Tampa Bay was led by their goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who turned away 31 out of 34 shots for a nice .912 SV% while Pittsburgh’s Marc-André Fleury stopped 21 out of 25 shots for a terrible .840 SV% in his first game back. The Pens coach Mike Sullivan will have another big question on who to start for Game 6. Pittsburgh led in shots (34-25), faceoffs (37-31), hits (43-37), blocked shots (22-8), and giveaways (9-1) whereas Tampa Bay did not lead in any category. The teams were tied in penalty minutes (8-8) and both teams were 0/3 on the PP.
These two powerhouse squads will suit back up for Game 6 where Tampa will look to close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup Final Tuesday night at 8 pm.