First things first. Let’s mention two clear facts about tonight’s game. The Pittsburgh Penguins played a spirited game and enjoyed the run of play for most of the night. They had the majority of the shots, scoring chances and puck possession. Also, the Lightning couldn’t take advantage of a splendid performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy, who finished with 38 saves.
So it’s true that the Penguins did a lot of things very well in this game and Vasilevskiy was a big reason why they were held to two goals through three periods. But those two facts aren’t the only ones worth mentioning. The Lightning, despite posting only 21 shots in the game, actually generated a high number of scoring chances themselves. But because of some Matt Murray saves, a crossbar hit and some other attempts that were either blocked or missed the net, they also were also held to two goals through the first three periods.
The Penguins scored twice in the opening 9:37 of the game. On both, they did well to apply pressure – pressure that led to the goals. But they also received some puck luck on both. After Vasilveskiy stopped Eric Fehr’s shot on a two-on-one, Ondrej Palat mishandled the rebound and put it right onto the stick of Matt Cullen, who finished his chance. The Pens made it 2-0 when Nick Bonino’s rebound shot hit off the skate of Andrej Sustr and ricocheted to Phil Kessel, who scored from the left circle.
In those opening minutes, the Penguins had other chances to score. But so did the Lightning. The difference was that the Lightning’s shots weren’t reaching Murray. The best of those came off a shot from Jonathan Drouin, but Ben Lovejoy blocked the open net chance.
The opportunities didn’t dry up for the Lightning, however. Jonathan Marchessault fed Anton Stralman, who had pinched from the right point to the right circle. Stralman finished his shot over Murray’s glove to get the Lightning on the board. Then, after coming out of the penalty box, Drouin wristed a right circle shot under Murray’s right arm, tying the game in the final minute of the period.
But the Lightning weren’t able to build upon that momentum in the second period. From the 10-minute mark of the second until the end of the game, the Penguins established a consistent puck possession advantage. Part of that edge came from Pittsburgh players making good plays with the puck. Part of it came from Lightning players not executing well on their own passing. That led to a lot of “one and done” sequences for the Lightning in the offensive zone and plenty of chances for the Penguins, both off the rush and during sustained offensive zone shifts. During that time, Vasilevskiy was superb. His best save came on a Sidney Crosby backhander in the second period, but he was tested many other times through the rest of the game.
But here’s where this game had an interesting wrinkle. The Lightning managed only 13 shots during the second and third periods combined. But most of those 13 shots were good (or great) scoring chances. Even some of their shot attempts that didn’t go on net were dangerous. Alex Killorn not only hit the crossbar in the third, he had a breakaway late in the second. Other second period looks included chances for Drouin, Palat, Cedric Paquette and Marchessault. In the third, the Lightning almost scored when Lovejoy nearly put the puck in his own net. They also generated a chance for Stralman on a cross ice feed from Nikita Kucherov, but the puck skipped over his stick. Dangerous third period shots on net came from Palat, Brian Boyle and Killorn again the in the final minute.
So the Lightning had their chances. The problem for Tampa Bay was that those chances didn’t come frequently enough. Instead, the Lightning spent too much of the game without the puck.
In overtime, the Penguins caught the Lightning in the neutral zone, as Brian Dumoulin slipped a pass to Bryan Rust, leading to an odd-man rush. Rust set up Crosby, who finished his shot from the slot over Vasilevskiy’s stick.
This was a game the Penguins desperately needed and they played like it. After Game One, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan stated that the Lightning hadn’t seen the Penguins’ best game. I believe, even though the Lightning defended well in Game One, that, so far in the series, the Penguins have yet to see the Lightning’s best game. The Lightning know they’ll need to manage the puck better in Game Three on Wednesday. If they do, they will likely be able to spend more time in the offensive zone. What they can take out of Game Two, however, is that even on a night when they didn’t have much puck possession, they were still able to generate enough scoring chances to win the game. But overall, they’ll need to be much crisper against a Penguins team that is capable of generating plenty of chances itself.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Crosby’s OT winner.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Sidney Crosby – Penguins. OT winner.
2.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. 38 saves.
3.Jonathan Drouin – Lightning. Goal.