This was a hard-fought, well-earned victory against an excellent opponent. Here are the key takeaways from the Lightning's seventh consecutive home victory.
- Yes, the Lightning committed some turnovers and had several icing infractions (as did the Penguins). But as compared to their sloppy and leaky defensive performance on Tuesday against Vegas, the Lightning's defensive work was crisp. Especially against Pittsburgh's top offensive players.
- There were three different points in the game when the Penguins were at their most dangerous. The opening minutes of the game. The start of the second period. And then for a longer stretch in the third after John Marino's goal cut the Lightning lead to 3-2. In all of those instances, Andrei Vasilevskiy made key saves, helping the Bolts navigate through those segments. He made two early first period saves on chances for Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust. The Penguins posted the first seven shots of the second - Vasilevskiy stopped them all. And then, he held the fort in the third following Marino's goal as the Pens pushed to even the score.
- Excluding Nikita Kucherov's empty-netter, the Lightning scored three goals. Two of those represented big momentum swings. Nearly four minutes after Mikhail Sergachev opened the scoring at 9:04 of the first period, the Penguins had an odd-man rush with a chance to tie the game. But Kucherov, who skated hard on a backcheck, was able to disrupt the rush by getting his stick a cross-ice pass in the Lightning's d-zone. He then tapped the puck out to Steven Stamkos, who finished a two-on-one rush with Brayden Point. Anthony Cirelli's goal was also on an odd-man rush. It came just 32 seconds after Malkin had cut the Lightning lead to 2-1. The Cirelli tally prevented the Pens from building any momentum from Malkin's goal (as they were able to do in the third after the Marino score).
- The Lightning's penalty kill was outstanding in going 5-5. Three of those came in the third period when the score was 3-2. The final two overlapped by 26 seconds, so the Pens had a five-on-three for 1:34. The Lightning held Pittsburgh to just one shot on goal during that five-on-three.
- For the second straight game, the Lightning had to play most of the night with only five defensemen. Ryan McDonagh left early in the second period after blocking a shot. The five other d-men picked up the slack. That includes Braydon Coburn, who hadn't played since January 14.
- High marks to Cirelli, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Victor Hedman. Cirelli's line was matched up all night against Sidney Crosby's line. For the second half the game, Crosby and Malkin played on the same line. Hedman also saw a lot of Crosby's line. Crosby was held without a point and finished minus three. Cirelli scored the aforementioned goal on the shift after Malkin's tally. He could have had two others. Matt Murray took a tripping penalty on Cirelli to prevent one goal and later made a shorthanded breakaway save on Cirelli. Cirelli led all forwards in shorthanded ice time and was a big part of the successful five-on-three kill. Hedman, in addition to his defensive play and extensive time on the penalty kill, finished with three assists.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Anthony Cirelli - Lightning. GWG.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 29 saves. Set franchise record with win. 15-0-2 in last 17 decisions.
- Victor Hedman - Lightning. Three assists.