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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 9:26 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Pens maintain 2-1 lead on Tampa after two periods

After combining for three goals in the opening period, the teams went scoreless in the second. It appeared as though each team wasn't willing to risk making a mistake and give its opponent an offensive opportunity. Both goalies were sharp throughout, though, with Roloson making his best save off a shot from the point by Michalek Zbynek with Chris Connor on the doorstep at 5:13.

The Penguins fourth line of Craig Adams centering Mike Rupp and Arron Asham has been Pittsburgh's best line in this series. In three games, the trio has accrued 3 goals, 5 points and a plus-9 rating. The play did get a little chippy in the final five minutes of the second when Steve Downie was whistled for delay of the game at 16:43, giving Pittsburgh its second power-play of the game.

The Lightning did deny the Penguins for the 15th straight time with the man advantage but not without some bit of assistance from veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson. He stopped a tip by Jordan Staal with his left pad following the ensuing face-off, before later turning back a big shot from the point by Kris Letang and Alex Kovalev's rebound attempt at the right post.  

Pittsburgh held a 9-6 advantage in shots in the second and maintain a 21-17 shot edge through two periods. Pittsburgh's Kris Letang has 5 of the team's 23 hits for the game and Lightning defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Pavel Kubina each have 4 of the team's 30 body checks.

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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 8:32 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Pittsburgh opens 2-1 lead in opening period of Gm 3

The Pittsburgh Penguins stole a page out of the book of the Tampa Bay Lightning in opening period of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal round matchup at St. Pete Times Forum on Monday night.

For once, they came out with the quick start en route to grabbing a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes in the process.

The Lightning pared the deficit to 2-1 on a power-play goal by Martin St. Louis at 15:19 of the opening period. Simon Gagne skated with the puck to the side of Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury before throwing a pass in front. St. Louis took one stab at the disk before backhanding a shot between the goalie and the post.

The Penguins opened a 2-0 lead on goals by Maxime Talbot at 5:46 and Arron Asham just 45 seconds later. Talbot's goal came off a transition following a tremendous body check by Tampa Bay's Steve Downie on Ben Lovejoy behind the Penguins cage. Instead of rallying the Lightning, however, the hit fired up the Penguins as Talbot eventually grabbed the loose puck and skated hard down his right wing before unleashing a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Roloson to the short side.

Asham's 8th career playoff goal came off a 2-on-1 breakout with Michael Rupp. After banking a pass to himself along the right wing half boards, Rupp spotted Asham streaking down the opposite wing and feathered a pass underneath a Tampa Bay defenseman. Asham easily snapped his attempt past Roloson for the two-goal lead.

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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 7:50 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Lightning - Penguins pregame Gm 3 lineups

The teams just completed pregame warmups here at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay and the fans in attendance are already clamoring their Lightning-logoed rally drums.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher had center Steven Stamkos on multiple lines in Game 2 -- as high on the top line, in addition to some checking-line duties.

In warmups on Monday, Boucher had the following lines established to open Game 3. I wouldn't count of them remaining this way though.
Nate Thompson-Sean Bergenheim-Dominic Moore
Vinny Lecavalier-Martin St. Louis-Simon Gagne
Steve Downie-Dana Tyrell-Adam Hall
Teddy Purcell-Steve Stamkos-Ryan Malone

Earlier in the day, Stamkos spoke about his recent scoring struggles (5 goals in last 25 games).

"It's something that has been prolonged for my liking, but at the same time I've picked up other aspects of my game that are going to need to be there to be successful in the playoffs so I'm happy where those parts of my game are at," Stamkos said. "Now I'm just trying to find a healthy combination of the both to move forward and help this team win."

Penguins pregame warmup line combinations included:
Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy-Chris Kunitz
Alex Kovalev-James Neal-Mark Letestu
Chris Conner-Pascal Dupuis-Max Talbot
Michael Rupp-Arron Asham-Craig Adams

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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 4:25 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Fleury prepared for Lightning strike

Pittsburgh goalie Marc Andre Fleury is sure of one thing: The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to come out flying in Game 3 of this series that shifts to St. Pete Times Forum in the Sunshine State on Monday.

"They played a pretty similar style in both games in Pittsburgh, coming out hard, playing fast and getting off a good start," Fleury said. "They come in a lot to the net, going for tips, rebounds and screens. That's something we expect once again.

"Their forwards are fast; they come back quick and we have to be aware of that," Fleury added. "Now being home, we expect that same thing."

Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis knows the team must match that intensity or else it could mean a long night.

"It's playoffs so you have to match intensity because if you don't, you won't win," Dupuis said. "They have come hard at us the first two games at home and I don't see why they wouldn't try to do the same thing here in front of their fans so we do have match that intensity. We do have to manage the puck better in the first … I don't like to say whether the storm, but they will come out hard and we know that."

Defenseman Paul Martin feels the Pens just need to maintain their aggressiveness on the puck.

"In Game 2, we weren't able to establish much of a forecheck and that hurt," Martin said. "It's a desire and mindset and commit to doing the little things. Get the pucks in the right areas to help our forwards get in there and establish that forecheck and get pucks to the net."

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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 3:57 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Mary, Marty everywhere

In addition to logging a ton of ice time and becoming a reliable force along the Tampa Bay blue line since coming over in a trade with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 18, coach Guy Boucher has discovered that Eric Brewer has also been a huge benefit to Martin St. Louis.

How?

Well, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Brewer has been the point-man on what has a become a pretty potent power-play of late for the Lightning. And that assists St. Louis, who has traditionally been a big focus with his team on the man advantage, in a big way.

"Well, I didn't want to play (Brewer) on the power play to be honest," Boucher told the media following team meetings on Monday morning at St. Pete Times Forum.

"And the reason being he was getting so much ice time everywhere else and playing against the top lines," Boucher said. "But having him there has given him more ice and it hasn't seemed to hurt him at all. He's reliable on the power-play. We had four different setups we used during the year -- Marty at the point, Marty along the board, Marty down low and Marty in the middle -- depending on the team and depending on the period of the game.

"Marty was everywhere, but he relieves Marty from the pressure of playing the point and having to manage that and with his size. Not being a defenseman, it was tough for Marty, but having Eric back there is a huge help."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 9:18 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Playoff hockey returns to Tampa Bay

The excitement is beginning to build on the west central coast of the Sunshine State as fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning prepare to host their first Stanley Cup Playoff game in four years.

The Lightning scored a 5-1 victory in Game 2 on Friday to even their best-of-7 series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma knows keeping emotions in check whether home or away is critical to success.

"Playoff series are a ride of emotions and they came back and answered in Game 2 to tie the series," Bylsma told reporters following Saturday's practice." They are now going home for two home games, home-ice advantage and we have to re-gather ourselves and go in there, and understand how important it is to play our very best game and get a win in Tampa Bay. Change of venues and those emotions are important to manage."

Despite Friday's lopsided loss on home ice, the Penguins aren't in panic mode. In fact, the club feels comfortable playing on the road -- the team led the League in road wins during the regular season with a franchise-record 24 away from Consol Energy Center. That was one road victory short of the Eastern Conference leaders -- the Philadelphia Flyers.

"They have to do the same thing and get ready for Game 3," Bylsma said. "We now know we're going to have to win a game in Tampa Bay to make home-ice matter here in the series. Game 3 and Game 4 will be pivotal games. We have that focus and understanding."

The Lightning will look to grab hold of the series before their sun-drenched fans on Monday in Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. Game 4 is slated right back at St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

I'll be in Tampa for Games 3 and 4 this week, so keep checking back often for game updates and a look at how Tampa is preparing for playoff hockey once again.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 1:57 PM

NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Penguins prepare for Game 1 without Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will miss a Stanley Cup Playoffs game because of injury for the first time in his career.

Crosby, who helped lead the Penguins to the Stanley Cup two years ago, took part in the Penguins' pregame skate in advance of Wednesday night’s game against Tampa Bay. But he has not yet been cleared for contact work in practice, a step he must take before he can play.

Coach Dan Bylsma said there was no change in Crosby’s condition.

"No update on Sid," Bylsma said. "Nothing has changed. He has not moved on in his progression."

Crosby hasn't played since Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay, when he was driven into the boards by a hit from defenseman Victor Hedman. The game before, he absorbed a hard hit from Washington’s David Steckel.

Crosby has 30 goals and 52 assists for 82 points in 62 career playoff games. The Penguins reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009 with Crosby on their top line, beating Detroit in seven games in the 2009 Final.
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Quote of the Day

I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

— Jordan Eberle on taking his game and the Edmonton Oilers to the next level