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Penguins overwhelm fading Lightning

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- Jussi Jokinen has fit right in with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jokinen, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL Trade Deadline last week, scored twice and added an assist Thursday night as the Penguins overwhelmed the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3.

Jokinen opened the scoring with his eighth goal of the season and second as a Penguin at 4:07 of the opening period when he charged the net and finished off a cross-ice pass from Brenden Morrow. He added a third-period goal and has points in all three games he's played since being acquired from Carolina -- giving the Penguins an offensive boost while Sidney Crosby is sidelined with a broken jaw.

"Playing those kind of minutes with those kind of players, you expect to do well and put up some points," Jokinen said.

Coach Dan Bylsma has been delighted with the play of Jokinen, who went unclaimed on waivers before being dealt to Pittsburgh

"Jussi is a gritty player," Bylsma said. "He was around the cage a couple of times tonight and came away with two goals."

The Penguins led 3-2 as the third period began, but Evgeni Malkin's unassisted tally triggered a three-goal third period as the Penguins won their third in a row and 18th in 20 games.

Malkin gave the Penguins a 4-2 lead when he picked off a pass by Lightning forward Alex Killorn and beat goaltender Ben Bishop under the glove at 1:24 of the final period. Jokinen scored his second of the night at 4:45 and Glass backhanded home a power-play goal at 16:40 for his first point in 40 games with the Penguins.

Pittsburgh converted on three of six extra-man opportunities, including a goal by Chris Kunitz to open the second period..

"We had a tough night on the penalty kill tonight, but sometimes that happens," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We got exposed in some areas, or we exposed ourselves."

Tampa Bay went 3-for-4 with the extra man; Teddy Purcell scored twice -- one in the final seconds -- and Brett Connolly also connected for the Lightning.

"We hung in there," Cooper said. "We scored three power-play goals and you'd hope things would be a little bit closer. It was a little frustrating. I'd look up there and it was like, gosh, I didn't think we were that far behind, but I just didn't feel like it was that kind of game."

But the closest that Tampa Bay could get was to close the gap to one goal twice -- at 2-1 and 3-2.

"That's a really good hockey team," Cooper said. "That's a team that won 15 hockey games in a row in the best league in the world. We were 3-2 going into the third. The early goal in the third was a backbreaker and then penalties got the best of us after that."

Tampa Bay was whistled for 37 minutes of penalties, tying a season-high set against Ottawa on Jan. 25.

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang returned after missing six games; he played 23:32 and assisted on Kunitz's goal.

"Kris was a welcomed guy back to our lineup tonight, and you could see how very good he was all over the ice," Bylsma said. "It made a difference. The power play benefitted from having him back there as well. It is lights out. His ability to move across the line and distribute the puck was a really big factor.

The Penguins (31-10-0) lead the Eastern Conference with 62 points, five more than Montreal, and have won three in a row. Tampa Bay (17-21-2) remained eight points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers with eight games remaining.

Tomas Vokoun faced only 19 shots, and Cooper thought his team made it much too easy on the veteran goaltender.

"You can't go into a game against this team and think you're just going to go tic-tac-toe and get the highlight goal of the night," Cooper said. "We passed up a lot of shots tonight. I thought we had time of possession in their zone and came out with zero shots on goal. Eventually, that will change. Basically, we were sitting there with an 'A' opportunity and we passed it up for a 'B' opportunity. That's the mentality we have to get out of our head.

"We showed up. We didn't get pushed back. But we have a lot of things to learn," Cooper said.

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