For the second time this weekend, it was a hockey night in Pittsburgh. This time ‘round, the Penguins welcomed Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning to town for their second faceoff against a Florida team in the last seventy-two hours. The Penguins were looking to extend their home wins record to five this season, while looking to earn a second consecutive home win.
The Penguins earned their first of the night barely a minute and a half into the game courtesy of Sidney Crosby. With just 1:16 off the clock, Chris Kunitz stolel a pass in the neutral zone and sent it on to Crosby who would blow past Eric Brewer before roofing it over Anders Lindback. The Penguins took a 2 to 0 lead with just over seven minutes off the clock. The puck would be blasted toward the net from the point and Crosby would tip it slightly before Lindback knocked it into this own net. Pittsburgh continued to dominate the first period of play, walking all over Tampa Bay’s defense in the process. They earned their third of the night with thirty-four seconds left in the first period, this time the goal coming from Paul Martin. Matt Cooke would start the play with a steal of the puck inside his own blue line, initiating a 3-on-2. He would pass it to Martin, who would dish it back to him before picking it up again and banking in on Lindback, finding nothing but the net. The period would end with a spirited bout of fisticuffs between Joe Vitale and Adam Hall and at the end of the first the board would 3 to 0 in favour of Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay came out swinging in the second, earning two to bring the game to within a single goal while swapping goalies. Lindback would warm the bench in favour of Mathieu Garon. A minute and a half into the second frame, it was Eric Brewer notching Tampa’s first of the evening. Simon Despres would be sent to the box for a hook, opening up some opportunity to the Lightning, now on the power play. Less than thirty seconds later, Craig Adams would join him after earning a boarding calling, giving Tampa the two-man advantage. Steven Stamkos would use the opportunity to bring Tampa to within a single goal with a blast beating Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins would kill off the second penalty and emerge unscathed. Before the period was over, Pittsburgh earned their own 5-on-3. Eric Brewer would knock Beau Bennett off his skates and would be forced to take a seat with 8:57 left in the middle frame. Forty seconds later, Sami Salo was called for an interference, giving the Pens the two-man advantage for a minute and eighteen seconds. This time ‘round, it was Beau Bennett earning his FIRST NHL goal to return the Penguins to the two-goal lead. Crosby would send a pass across ice to Bennett who would beat Garon with a one-timer. Tanner Glass would ALMOST add another, but the puck would skim the crease before bouncing out. At the end of forty, the board read 4 to 2 in favour of the Penguins, despite being outshot by Tampa 10 to 7.
Just over three minutes into the period, Tampa would bring the game to within a goal, courtesy of Cory Conacher. Fleury would drop to make a save on slap shot but the shot would deflect off of Joe Vitale to Conacher who had nothing but open net standing in his way. And just like that, it was a 4 to 3 game. Tampa’s Richard Panik would earn a breakaway only to be denied by Fleury to keep the Penguins ahead by a goal with just over thirteen minutes left in regulation. Tampa continued to come on strong and dominate play but were not able to notch that fourth goal. In the final two minutes, Tampa would pull Garon and it would be Matt Cooke putting the game to rest with the Pens fifth of the night. With the win, the Penguins take sole possession of the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
Kris Letang led all skaters with 26:28 of ice time while Paul Martin followed with 24:03. Sidney Crosby, with two goals and an assist making for a three-point night, registered five shots on net while Matt Cooke had three. The Penguins would sent 22 shots towards the goaltending tandem of Garon and Lindback while Fleury saw 30 shots.
The Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin. Malkin left Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers early following a nasty collision with the boards. He continues to be evaluated for what have been speculated as concussion-like symptoms, although reports continue to be conflicting. No definitive time line has been set for his return.
The Penguins will return to the road, heading to Florida to take on the Panthers for the second time in less than a week on Tuesday night. Game time is 7:30pm.