Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5.
That one hurts, especially considering that the Pens held a 2-0 lead at one point in the night. Both head coach Mike Sullivan and veteran winger Chris Kunitz pointed to a power play in the second period as the turning point of the game. They had a chance to get that third goal, and nearly did when Phil Kessel’s shot sneaked through Andrei Vasilevskiy short-side and sat in the crease, but just couldn’t find a way. And not only were the Pens unable to convert; they had a lull right after the penalty expired while the Bolts found energy. They capitalized on that momentum they built by continuing to put pucks deep on the Pens and coming at them, and got rewarded with a goal soon after. From there it was a different game. Sullivan felt the Pens should have simplified their game to try and get the momentum back, but they didn't quite do that.
Marc-Andre Fleury was back between the pipes for his first start since March 31 against Nashville. The crowd cheered him loudly as he led the team onto the ice for warmups, when he was announced in the lineup and continued throughout the night when he made big stops. Going into a huge postseason game after not playing for such a long period of time certainly wasn’t easy, but Fleury was strong through the first 40 minutes. He only faced four shots in the first period, which isn’t ideal for a netminder who’s trying to shake off rust as they would prefer to feel the puck as much as possible. He got more action in the second, and his best save came when he stoned Tyler Johnson at the side of the net with his pad during a power play. Fleury dealt with ups and downs in the third period and overtime, but that’s to be expected after such a long layoff.
KUNITZ, RUST IMPRESS
I was impressed with the performance of Evgeni Malkin’s line, particularly the guys on his wings – Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust. That trio scored two of the Pens’ three goals. Heading into this series, Kunitz had scored just once during the playoffs but he’s since rediscovered his scoring touch. His tally towards the end of the second was his third in as many games, and it was an absolutely huge one. Meanwhile, Rust’s biggest strength is his speed and he used it to be a big factor in the game. He set up the Pens’ first goal by blowing past Victor Hedman, one of the league’s elite defensemen, and taking the puck straight to the net with seconds left to play. Not many guys can make that play at that point in the game.