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Lightning beat Penguins 5-1 to even series

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- Desperation doesn't always occur late in a game or deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sometimes it's needed well before one team has established domination over another, or even before a series has shifted venues.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, determined not to go back home down 2-0 to the Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh Penguins, proved that Friday night in the opening minutes of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Eric Brewer scored the important opening goal and added a pair of assists as the Lightning took advantage of the early chances they couldn't convert in Game 1 to beat the Penguins 5-1 and even the series at one win apiece.

"We stayed with our game plan, we didn't make any changes from our game plan -- and we played hard," goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "We were trying to get one game out of here and that's what we did."

Simon Gagne added 3 assists and Martin St. Louis closed out the second period with Tampa Bay's second power-play goal of the game to restore the Bolts'  three-goal lead. St. Louis' goal helped the Lightning win the battle of the special teams, as they went 2-for-6 on the power play to Pittsburgh's 0-for-7. The Penguins are 0-for-13 with the extra man in the series heading into Game 3 Monday night in Tampa.

"They were dangerous on it (the power play), we took too many penalties and made it a factor," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our discipline and composure were not great. You saw that in the first couple of shifts. We came out fairly well, but we lost composure a little bit."

The story line changed quickly, and dramatically, from Game 1.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury couldn't match his magical performance during that 3-0 victory on Wednesday, when he refused to be beaten on a succession of excellent Tampa Bay scoring chances in the opening 12 minutes.

This time, he allowed goals on two of the first three shots and three of the first eight he faced as the Lightning led 3-0 after the first period.

Brewer scored 2:02 into the game as the teams skated 4-on-4 and Vincent Lecavalier contributed a power-play goal at 6:53. Nate Thompson scored late in a period Tampa Bay appeared determined to control -- and did.

"I thought we came out and capitalized on chances, something didn't do in the first game," Lecavalier said. "It definitely helps after first period being up 3-0. They kept coming the whole game, but we held them off." 

It wasn't all Fleury's fault, as the Lightning took full advantage of several Pittsburgh defensive breakdowns, some ill-timed penalties and the Penguins' ineffective power play, which was the NHL's worst during the second half of the season and hasn't improved.

If the Penguins proved in Game 1 they could win without Crosby – and Evgeni Malkin, who's out after season-ending knee surgery -- they showed in Game 2 that they sometimes aren't the same team without their captain and his co-star.

Crosby skated on a makeshift fifth line during the morning skate but he's still sidelined, 3 1/2 months after sustaining a concussion -- and there is no indication when he might play again.

After the Lightning lost Game 1, they couldn't wait to play again. And it showed.

Roloson, the 41-year-old goalie who was upstaged by Fleury in the opener, made 35 saves for his first playoff victory since leading Edmonton to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, but he had plenty of help.

Taking the largest crowd in Consol Energy Center's brief history (18.507) out of the game for long stretches – and it was a very loud and ready-to-erupt crowd – the Lightning ignored the noise and the Penguins' 22-6 record in home Game 2s.

Brewer set the tone while converting on an early 2-on-1 rush with Thompson. Rather than passing after carrying the puck into the Pittsburgh end, Brewer – picked up two months ago from St. Louis -- snapped off a wrist shot that Fleury couldn't control.

Barely two minutes into the game, Tampa Bay already had done what it couldn't do two nights before – get a puck past Fleury.

"Flower made some unbelievable saves in that first game, so to score right away gave us a lot of confidence," Lecavalier said.

Later, with Jordan Staal off for boarding, Gagne controlled the puck at the side of the net and threw a backhander toward the front of the net. Lecavalier controlled the puck and put a wrister on the net that beat Fleury to the glove side.

"We had the No. 1 power play in the conference, and it needs to be a strength," said coach Guy Boucher, who was so certain he had an executable game plan that he made no noticeable changes from Game 1.

Thompson scored at 17:02, putting in a rebound of Steve Downie's shot from the right circle to finish a sequence that began with Downie taking the puck away from defenseman Paul Martin near the Penguins' bench.

Craig Adams got the Penguins back into, if only briefly,  midway through the second period with his sixth playoff goal in the last four seasons -- he has 10 regular-season goals during the same span.

Pittsburgh had a half-dozen good scoring chances after that, with an opportunity to make it a one-goal game, only to have St. Louis score from along the goal line off Gagne's pass 14 seconds before the period ended.

"That goal was big at the end of the period," Boucher said. "It's always big. It gives you momentum and confidence going into the dressing room."

St. Louis converted only a few minutes after the arena video board showed him taking a stick in the mouth from defenseman Zbynek Michalek in Game 1, a hit that caused significant damage to two teeth. St. Louis insisted he wasn't trying to extract revenge.

"My motivation is we're down 1-0, it's not because I loose teeth," St. Louis said. "It's teeth.  It's not a shoulder, it's not a knee, it's not an ankle, it's teeth. It's the playoffs, and you have to expect to get injured."

Mattias Ohlund scored shorthanded into an empty net with 2:05 to play.

"It's 1-1, and it's very early in the series, but we've got to be happy with what we did," Lecavalier said.

Still, Penguins forward Arron Asham said losing the home-ice advantage isn't necessarily a disadvantage.

"We're not too worried in here," he said. "We know we've got a good team, and we know we've got to go there and steal a win and, hopefully, take two out of there. We're confident."
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