In the first two meetings between the teams this year, which were played in the past two and half weeks, the Lightning carried play in the first period. In the first game, Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational in the opening 20, holding the Lightning to just one goal. In the second game, the Lighting built a 2-0 lead in the first, an advantage they would eventually extend to 4-0.
On this night, however, Pittsburgh was, by a wide margin, the better team in the first period. The Pens were hungrier on loose pucks and moved through the three zones with ease. The Lightning, when they had the puck, didn’t make good decisions with it, repeatedly losing possession. Two of those turnovers hurt. The first one led to a Lightning penalty, on which the Penguins scored the game’s first goal. The second resulted in Pittsburgh’s third goal, which came at 13:39 of the first. That score marked the end of the night for Ben Bishop, who was pulled for Evgeni Nabokov. The Lightning did get one goal back before the period ended, however, when Brian Boyle tucked in a shot from the low slot. But as a whole, the Bolts were awful in the first and the Pens were terrific.
For most of the final two periods, though, the Lightning found their game. They forechecked well, enjoyed more puck possession and offensive zone time (which meant less time in their own end) and did a better job of limiting Pittsburgh’s time and space. But despite chipping away at the deficit, they couldn’t tie the game. Victor Hedman banked a shot off Thomas Greiss and into the Pittsburgh net at 12:48 of the second, which made the score, 3-2. But then, as the Lightning were killing a penalty, Pittsburgh’s Nick Spaling high-sticked Anton Stralman. Referee Paul Devorski missed the high stick, even though Spaling’s stick was lodged in Stralman’s face-shield. As Stralman tried to work the stick free, Beau Bennett cruised into the Lightning end and set up Christian Ehrhoff for a goal. It was a tough break – and it put the Bolts down, 4-2.
In the third period, the Lightning again sliced into the deficit. Alex Killorn rushed the puck down the wing and barreled in front. He took it wide and tucked a shot past Greiss. That tally made the score, 4-3, with 8:42 remaining. But on the very next shift, the Lightning twice turned the puck over in their own zone and Steve Downie netted a crucial insurance goal for Pittsburgh. The Bolts would get no closer.
So there were a couple of reasons why the Lightning lost this game. Their first period performance was terrible and they fell into a hole out of which they couldn’t climb. And despite scoring three goals in their comeback effort, they allowed a couple of critical scores at crucial times.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Downie’s third period goal, which occurred on the shift after Killorn scored.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Evgeni Malkin – Penguins. Goal and assist. The best player on the ice for either team.
2.Steve Downie – Penguins. Two goals.
3.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Two assists.