The Pittsburgh Penguins, facing elimination, played a desperate game. For the first two periods, the Lightning were unable to match Pittsburgh’s desperation level. While that disparity wasn’t the whole story of Game Six, it was a big part of it. During the opening 40 minutes, the Penguins were hungrier on pucks and played a fast, crisp game. The Lightning weren’t operating with the same hunger, speed or crispness.
As a result, the Penguins, in a somewhat similar script to Game Three, had most of the puck possession, shots and scoring chances during the first two periods. During that time, they built a 3-0 lead, one that proved to be just too much for the Lightning to overcome. Overcome it the Lightning nearly did though. In the third period, the Lightning raised their desperation level and dominated play. After firing only 11 shots on goal in the first two periods combined, the Bolts posted 19 shots in the third. They cut the deficit to 3-2 before the Pens iced it with two late goals.
But the Lightning didn’t lose this game because they allowed a couple of goals in the third. This game was lost in the first two periods. Had Jonathan Drouin’s early goal not been overturned due to a successful coach’s challenge, perhaps the game might have unfolded differently. Taking that goal off the board took clearly took some wind out of the Lightning’s sails. Up until that point, the Pens had been applying pressure – and they had posted the game’s first five shots. The overturned goal helped the Penguins maintain momentum and prevented the Lightning from shifting it. Still, thanks to a strong first period from Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning were a couple of minutes away from getting out of the period in a scoreless tie. But two overlapping penalties – one on an interference infraction in the neutral zone and the other on a delay of game (in which Victor Hedman shot the puck out of play when he was simply clearing it down the ice) – proved to be costly. Phil Kessel’s five-on-three power play goal gave the Pens the lead, rewarding them for their strong play in the opening frame.
The Lightning’s compete level was better in the second – and the period, as a whole, was more evenly played – but the Penguins still had most of the puck possession and scoring chances. Kris Letang scored off the rush and Sidney Crosby broke through the Lightning defense and tallied a breakaway goal to extend the Pittsburgh lead. The Crosby goal came in the final minute of the period, the fourth such goal the Lightning have allowed in the series.
In the third, in addition to playing faster and crisper, the Lightning adapted a shooting mentality. Brian Boyle netted both Lightning goals and the Lightning had numerous other scoring chances. But a three-goal hole is a big one and Matt Murray, despite allowing the two Boyle goals, made a several key saves to preserve his team’s lead. In activating their defense, the Lightning were vulnerable to counter-attacks and Bryan Rust scored on a breakaway with just over two minutes left. Nick Bonino finished the scoring with an empty-netter.
Now both teams face elimination. Which means we should see a high desperation game from both sides in Game Seven on Thursday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Crosby’s late second period goal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Sidney Crosby – Penguins. Goal and assist.
2.Kris Letang – Penguins. Goal.
3.Brian Boyle – Lightning. Two goals.