This game was not a perfect 60-minute “Picasso” for the Lightning. They endured a tough stretch in the first period in which they were outshot, 10-1. And they had some shaky moments early in the third period after the Penguins cut their lead to 4-3. But they also enjoyed segments in the game when they carried play. And ultimately, they converted on enough of their generated scoring chances to offset those aforementioned Pittsburgh surges.
During those times when the Lightning struggled, the Penguins were crisp in their execution. But the Lightning also helped fuel the Pittsburgh momentum with some shaky passing and puck management. That first Pittsburgh surge began after Patric Honrqvist finished an open chance from the slot. It came on Pittsburgh’s third shot of the game and was the third of those 10 consecutive shots for the visitors. But Ben Bishop made several key stops to keep the Lightning deficit at one.
As was the case on Wednesday against Detroit, the Lightning received a terrific game from the line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn. They were on the ice for two even strength goals, both of which came in the first period. The tying goal from Anton Stralman began with a forechecking steal from Killorn, followed by Johnson’s centering pass to Stralman, who scored off a wrist shot from the slot. That goal at 11:50 ended the string of 10 straight Pittsburgh shots and helped curb the Penguins’ momentum.
That line struck again late in the frame. At the end of a long sustained offensive zone shift, Kucherov took a shot from the left point that was deflected twice – first by Johnson and then by Killorn. It ricocheted into the Pittsburgh net. So despite getting outplayed for much of the period, the Lightning actually came out of the first with a 2-1 lead.
The Lightning had a much better second period. They had more offensive zone time, generated some good scoring chances, and killed off three penalties. On the first of those kills, Ondrej Palat converted on a breakaway for a shorthanded goal. Then, shortly after Sidney Crosby roofed a shot from the slot over Bishop’s glove, Johnson scored a power play goal to restore the two-goal Lightning lead. It was an important tally, because it came just over a minute after Crosby’s goal.
Matt Cullen scored off the rush in the opening minute of the third and the Penguins used that goal to begin another momentum surge. But Bishop produced some more key saves to keep the Lightning lead intact. About halfway through the period, the Lightning settled down their game and spent more time in the offensive zone. They picked up a key insurance tally when Palat sticked home the rebound of a Stamkos shot. Stralman finished the scoring with an empty-netter.
The Bolts have now won eight straight at home, including a couple of victories in the last two games against Detroit and Pittsburgh, two excellent opponents. In this contest, they didn’t allow their shaky moments to define the game. And they were able to capitalize on enough of their own dangerous chances so that they overcame an early deficit, grabbed the lead and held onto it.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Johnson’s PPG, which turned out to be the game-winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Tyler Johnson – Lightning. PPG and two assists.
2.Alex Killorn – Lightning. Goal and assist.
3.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Two goals.