Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
1. Fire Out of the Gate
The Pens have been talking a lot lately about improving their starts in games. They had their best opening frame of the season against Ottawa in a completely dominant 20 minutes on Tuesday. And they carried that over into tonight. The Pens dominated the opening 10-plus minutes of the game against the Bolts. The Lightning net was under siege. The Pens netted a 1-0 lead and ran out to an 11-1 edge in shots. It was exactly the kind of start Pittsburgh needed to have. But…
Any momentum the Pens garnered from their fantastic start was lost when goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury gave up a goal to Anton Stralman at the 11:50 mark. The score evaporated Pittsburgh’s momentum and gave Tampa Bay a much-needed shot of life. Fleury also gave up a goal in the final two minutes of the first period and the Pens were never able to recover. Fleury allowed four goals on 14 shots before succumbing the net to Jeff Zatkoff. Fleury has been brilliant all season long and has been arguably the Pens’ MVP. But he’s played very poorly in back-to-back contests. The Pens need him to quickly regain his MVP form. With all the injuries, especially to Evgeni Malkin, the Pens need Fleury to be at his best now more than ever.
3. Special Teams
With injuries to many key players and a bottom-6 featuring all players that began the season in the American Hockey League, the Pens needed strong goaltending and special teams in order to win games. The Pens failed to score on their three power-play opportunities. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, scored a man-advantage goal and a shorthanded tally. And that was all the difference. Pittsburgh gave a valiant effort. Three goals should have been good enough to win this game. However, it wasn’t because of the goaltending and special teams.