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Aftermath: Lightning 2, Penguins 0

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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Michel Therrien | Fleury | Whitney | Crosby
QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The Penguins were shutout for the first time this season by the last ranked team in the NHL. Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense was smothered the entire game, with the team generating only 15 shots on goal. Not that the Penguins didn’t have a few chances. They had two breakaway opportunities but couldn’t convert on either. Pittsburgh was almost completely shutdown in the third period, when it was trying to mount a desperate comeback, with only three shots on goal.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) -Mike Smith made 15 saves to earn his second shutout of the season, Paul Szczechura had a goal and an assist, and the Tampa Bay Lightning picked up a rare victory by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Matt Pettinger had a goal and Mark Recchi recorded two assists for the Lightning, who won for the second time in their past 14 games. The Lightning have a NHL-low eight wins this season.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made his fourth consecutive start since returning from a groin injury, made 27 saves.

Pittsburgh, which beat Buffalo in overtime Monday night, finished a stretch of four games in six days with a 2-2 record. The Penguins have won only one of their past seven home games against the Lightning.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Rob Scuderi fights off Vincent Lecavalier (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked: Effort
Though the result wasn’t what the Penguins wanted, it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Pittsburgh had a number of great scoring opportunities - particularly two breakaway chances - but just couldn’t convert a score on Tampa Bay.

What Didn't Work: Final Period
The Penguins entered the third period trailing by one goal but didn’t get their first shot of the period until 11 minutes in. Pittsburgh wasn’t clicking on its passes and was suffocated by Tampa Bay’s trapping strategy. As a result, the Penguins couldn’t mount any sustained pressure in the Lightning zone and spent the majority of the period in the defensive zone. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Marc-Andre Fleury did the best he could to help the Penguins get at least one point in the game. He made 27 saves and gave up only two goals in a losing effort. Fleury made big saves in the first period to keep it a scoreless game and can’t be blamed for the defeat.

Fleury made one of the best saves you’ll see in the NHL this season in the second period. He was high atop his crease when Vincent Lecavalier sent a shot onto the net. Fleury made the save but kicked the rebound out to the Lightning’s Paul Ranger, who had an entire open net to shoot into. But Fleury, with a quick split maneuver, got his left pad on the puck to prevent a score.
 
GOAL BREAKDOWN
 
Tampa Bay scored the game’s first goal after Petr Sykora’s breakaway shot missed the goal. The Lightning countered and Paul Szczechura took the puck around the Penguins goal and sent a centering pass to Matt Pettinger above the crease. Philippe Boucher picked up Pettinger, but couldn’t tie up his stick and the Lightning winger was able bang home the puck. Lightning 1, Penguins 0.

The Lightning converted the second half of a four-minute double-minor penalty to Maxime Talbot. Former Penguin Mark Recchi entered the zone and went cross ice to Jussi Jokinen, who fed the puck to the slot. Szczechura re-directed the puck through Fleury’s five-hold at 11:14 of the third period. Lightning 2, Penguins 0.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Ryan Whitney played his first professional game since having offseason surgery to repair his left foot. Whitney had an early scare when a shot when off of his knee and he went to the bench in pain. He returned to play with Mark Eaton at even strength, and saw action on penalty-killing and power-play situations. Whitney played the off-point on the man-advantage and setup Sidney Crosby for a great one-timer in the first period.

Michel Therrien experimented with his lines from the start of the game to the end. He reunited Crosby and Evgeni Malkin early but broke them up in the third period. The “two-headed monster” rotated with Pascal Dupuis and Petr Sykora. Every time the combo was on the ice they generated scoring chances. Jordan Staal centered between Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko or Matt Cooke and Tim Wallace during different stretches of the game.

Jeff Taffe did his best goalie impersonation when he stopped Steven Stamkos, the top pick in the 2008 draft, with Marc-Andre Fleury trapped behind his net. Fleury tried to play the puck behind his goal when Stamkos stole the puck. Taffe jumped into the goal and used his skate to stop Stamkos from scoring.

Petr Sykora had a great opportunity on a breakaway. He made a move to his backhand but sailed the puck wide. The puck caromed off the boards and Tampa counterattacked for the game’s opening goal.

The momentum appeared to be turning while Pittsburgh was killing a four-minute double-minor penalty in the third period. The Penguins were suffocating Tampa Bay’s chances and killed the first leg of the penalty. Malkin even picked up a soft dump and had a breakaway in on goal. Malkin went backhand but was denied by Tampa goalie Mike Smith. The Lightning took the puck the other way scored their second goal of the game.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh dropped to 18-12-4 on the year, with an 8-5-2 mark at Mellon Arena.

> Matt Pettinger gave Tampa Bay an early 1-0 lead with his second goal of the year at 5:15 of the second period. The Lightning increased its lead to 2-0 on Paul Szczechura’s  second goal of the year.

> Evgeni Malkin was held scoreless against the Lightning but still leads the NHL with 58 points (15G-43A). Malkin has eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points in his last 14 games. Malkin finished the game with an even plus-minus rating. He currently has a plus-22 rating on the season, the best mark in the NHL.

> Malkin’s 43 assists are a league best. Malkin is on pace for a 100-assist season. Only three players in NHL history have recorded 100-assist seasons (Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzkey and Bobby Orr).

> Malkin’s nine-game point streak came to an end against the Lightning. Over that span, he accumulated five goals and 14 assists for 19 points. He notched an assist in all nine contests, his second longest streak of the season. Malkin recorded an assist in 13-straight games earlier this year, the third-best mark in franchise history.

> Sidney Crosby was held scoreless against Tampa Bay. Crosby has eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points in his last 16 games. He is second in the league in scoring with 47 points (14G-33A). His 33 assists are second most in the league, behind only teammate Malkin’s 43.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (15+43=58) and Crosby (14+33=47). The last time Pittsburgh had the top two scorers in the league was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux (first) and Jaromir Jagr (second) topped the NHL. The team also had that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves in the losing effort to Tampa Bay. Fleury is 6-2-0 in his last nine starts in goal.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 82nd straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,064.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. Paul Szczechura, TB
2. Matt Pettinger, TB
3. Mark Recchi, TB
“You lose to the last place team at home and you don’t get a goal, it
doesn’t get much worse than that.”
- Ryan Whitney
 

 

Author: Sam Kasan

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