Sam Kasan gives his three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3.
The Pens’ HBK Line (Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel) were once again a dominant force for the Pens. Earlier in the season the media called them the “second line.” This afternoon, media referred to them as the “third line.” At what point will they realize, HBK is the first line? The trio of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel owned every shift on the ice. The threesome gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead with just 10 seconds left in the second period. Kessel stole a puck in the defensive zone and headed up ice for a semi-break. Kessel’s shot was stopped by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, but Hagelin buried the rebound. They struck again in the third period when Bonino, from behind the net, found Kessel at the side of the cage. Kessel went opposite post and in for a 2-0 advantage. The triumvirate combined for two goals, five points and 16 shots.
2. Tilted Ice
The Pens forecheck and offensive zone passing tilted the ice dramatically in their favor. They outshot the Bolts, 21-6, in the second period alone. The Pens even had a two-minute shift in the offensive zone at 5-on-5. Tampa was a stepped behind every pass and play. The Pens started asserting their will late in the first period and put the Lightning on their heels for most of the game. Pittsburgh’s depth and skill level was on display as they outshot the Bolts in total, 48-27. For as fast as the Lightning are, they just couldn’t keep up.
3. Quick Ups
The Pens know that the Bolts are a team that likes to strike off of turnovers and quick transition plays. Not only did the Pens protect the puck during the game, when they did turn it over Pittsburgh was quick to get up ice with speed to guard against the Bolts’ attack. The only blemish was when the Bolts crossed over after entering the zone and caused some confusion, which led to a Tampa goal by Tyler Johnson. But overall, the Pens didn’t give up many rush plays or odd-man rushes because they were already in proper position with strong gaps and funneled the Lightning to the outside.