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Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Pluses, minuses for Pens at Lightning

Pittsburgh has to use speed, skill in Game 3; each team must be disciplined

by Kevin Weekes / NHL Network Analyst

Each Wednesday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the game that intrigues him most that night. Weekes will also be assisting fans with three must-watch elements of the game.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were on the verge of falling behind the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final before Sidney Crosby scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift Pittsburgh to a 3-2 win in Game 2 on Monday and a 1-1 tie in the best-of-7 series.

This could've been a very quick series had the Penguins not found a way to win, and perhaps the goal by Crosby, who hadn't scored in eight games, will get him going.

Now, the series moves to Tampa essentially a best-of-5, and the Lightning will look to win their home games and move closer to the Stanley Cup Final.

Game 3 is at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Here's my breakdown of the game:


Pluses: John Maclean on "NHL Tonight" said the Penguins were not emotionally engaged in Game 1 and showed they left some emotions in their second-round series against the Washington Capitals, and I agree with him on that. We know the rivalry between Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, and the Penguins weren't fully emotionally invested in that game, but they were in Game 2. Pittsburgh outshot Tampa Bay 14-8 in the first period in Game 2 and took a 2-0 lead halfway through the period.

The Penguins ended up getting good depth scoring in Game 2. Phil Kessel scores and his line continues to be hot. Matt Cullen scores again, his line continues to be hot. Probably as important or more important was Crosby's goal and the timing of it. The game-winner ended his eight-game goal drought.

Matt Murray allowed two goals on 21 shots. Although he wasn't spectacular, he did enough to help the Penguins win the game.

Video: Crosby scores first career OT goal to even ECF

Minuses: The Penguins need to continue to have discipline. They took one penalty in Game 2 (Murray for tripping) but took three in Game 1, one of which led to a Lightning power-play goal. If they want to continue to be physical, they need to remain disciplined while doing it.

Pittsburgh needs to be able to continue to play the speed and skill game. That's who the Penguins are and what they are: speed and skill in the offensive zone, and speed, reads and pressure in the defensive zone.

Lastly, the Penguins need to get contributions from everyone. Crosby and Kessel, who had two of the three goals, are two of their top scorers.


Pluses: The great thing for Tampa Bay is that its goaltending is going to be great every night. Fortunately, Ben Bishop's injury is nowhere near as serious as it appeared to be, and coach Jon Cooper even said Tuesday that he could return sometime in this series. Andrei Vasilevskiy came in to replace him in Game 1 and got the win, then he made 38 saves and still gave them a chance to win Game 2.

Defenseman Anton Stralman, who hadn't played since March 25 with a broken left fibula, not only scored but had three shots and two blocks in 18:39 of ice time, helping to solidify the defense, and he also adds a presence on the power play. He's a huge addition to a team that already won two rounds without him and injured center Steven Stamkos.

The Lightning did what they had to do, winning one game on the road. True, they would've preferred to be up 2-0 in the series, but if they win their three home games, they will advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season. Tampa Bay is 5-1 at Amalie Arena in the playoffs.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm2: Stralman finishes great feed in return

Minuses: The Lightning need to shoot the puck more and spend more time in the offensive zone. They can score off the rush, but I think the team that uses the cycle game more will win the series. Tampa Bay wasn't able to establish extended zone time in Game 2 when it was outshot 42-21 and out-attempted 69-44. Cooper called the Lightning "one-and-done" in the offensive zone.

Because they are so skilled and have guys on their team that don't need to be high-volume shooters, sometimes they change the look of their shots. The Lightning need to have more of a shoot-first mentality, I believe. When they are at their best -- Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson -- they are going to get a lot of chances. You can't leave shots on the table.

I think the Lightning are the more physical of the teams, based on Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle in the lineup, but you don't want to be overactive to the point you're taking bad penalties.


1. How do the Lightning respond heading back home? They need the same start the Penguins had in Game 2.

2. Keep an eye on the goalie matchup. Vasilevskiy and Murray each is 21 years old.

3. Will Crosby and Malkin shoot more? Crosby had six shots in Game 2 and scored the game-winner; Malkin had two shots. Malkin doesn't have a goal in his past seven games.

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