In Saturday's loss to Philadelphia, the Lightning simply didn't play with enough passion. That wasn't the case in this game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unfortunately, they still made too many costly mistakes, especially against an explosive offensive team like the Penguins.
The Lightning did have 61 shot attempts in this game and generated several good scoring chances on Marc-Andre Fleury. A number of those came in the opening minutes and Fleury did well to keep the Lightning off the board. As the first period progressed, however, the Penguins, who were coming off their bye week, started gaining momentum. The Pens finished with 15 first period shots and a number of Grade-A chances themselves.
Prior to this weekend, the Lightning had allowed the first goal in 26 of their first 40 regular season games. In the 14 contests in which they'd scored first, they had a record of 12-2. But even though they scored first in both games this weekend, they still eventually fell behind and lost. In this game, the opening goal came early in the second period. Jonathan Drouin one-timed in a puck that deflected to him after an initial shot from Victor Hedman.
But the lead didn't last long. Nearly four and a half minutes later, Sidney Crosby led the way for Pittsburgh during a dominant offensive zone shift that culminated in an open look for Bryan Rust in the slot and a tap-in rebound for Connor Sheary. The Pens then grabbed the lead following a costly neutral zone turnover by the Lightning. Matt Cullen stole the puck and countered on a two-on-one with Eric Fehr, who finished the chance. It was 2-1 Pittsburgh after 40 minutes.
The Penguins are a dominant third period team. Entering this game, they had outscored the opposition, 52-24, in the third. They netted four more goals in the third period of this game, breaking open a close contest. Moments after Vladdy Namestnikov stole the puck from Fleury behind the Pittsburgh net and barely missed on a wraparound, the Pens added to their lead. The Lightning couldn't clear a puck from their own end and Chris Kunitz buried a shot from the slot. Less than a minute later, the Lightning were victimized by a bad bounce. An Erik Condra drop pass in the offensive zone skipped over the stick of Anton Stralman. Scott Wilson was able to counter on a breakaway and he scored to make it 4-1. A Namestnikov power play goal cut the deficit to 4-2, but the Pens answered again. After Vasilevskiy stopped a point-blank save for Sheary, Crosby made a great cross-crease pass to Phil Kessel, who popped in the fifth Pittsburgh goal. Kris Letang finished the scoring with a late power play goal.
So while it's true that the Lightning's compete level was higher, their game still wasn't good enough. Not against the dynamic Penguins. The search for answers will continue when the Bolts host Buffalo and Columbus this week.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Kunitz's goal to make it 3-1.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Sidney Crosby - Penguins. Two assists.
- Marc-Andre Fleury - Penguins. 28 saves.
- Jonathan Drouin - Lightning. Goal and assist.