The Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t going to go away that easily.
The Penguins had a chance to eliminate the Lightning in five games, but with their backs against the walls and the star power of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, Tampa proved to be the more desperate team. The Lightning won Game 5, 8-2, on Saturday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center and cut the Penguins’ first-round series lead to 3-2.
The Lightning weathered the early storm as the Penguins gathered momentum throughout much of the first period. Pittsburgh created several scoring chances, but goaltender Dwayne Roloson and the Lightning’s lineup of seven defensemen stifled all of the Penguins’ opportunities.
Late in the period, Tampa Bay executed a play with some picture-perfect passing to set up Simon Gagne’s first goal of the playoffs to take a 1-0 lead.
Steven Stamkos – a 45-goal scorer during the regular season who had been a sleeping giant throughout most of this series – used that momentum and crashed the crease to earn his first-ever postseason goal just 43 seconds later to open up a two-goal lead.
In the second period, the Lightning executed their neutral zone defense perfectly and capitalized on some favorable bounces to take a 5-0 lead, from which the Penguins would never recover.
The Penguins came out strong in the third period, as Rupp and Conner scored two quick goals to give the Pittsburgh offense some life. The Penguins didn’t stop working until the final whistle, in an attempt to build momentum for Game 6.
With the Penguins stuck in a 7-0 hole in the third period, it would have been easy to throw in the towel and look ahead to Game 6 on Monday. But Maxime Talbot never gave up.
Less than a minute after Pavel Kubina scored his second goal of the game to extend the Lightning lead, Talbot hustled behind the net to retrieve the puck. He centered it through the crease, where Rupp corralled it for a shot at Roloson. The initial shot was stopped, but Rupp found the rebound to spoil Roloson’s shutout bid.
A few minutes later, Talbot put on a repeat performance, this time setting up Chris Conner’s first-ever playoff goal. Once again, Talbot refused to give up on a seemingly broken play. He centered the puck to Conner, who snapped it into the net to give the Penguins some life.
Talbot now has three points in the last three games, adding Saturday’s two assists to his Game 3 goal.
The Penguins were flying high throughout much of the first period. Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy and Brooks Orpik all created excellent scoring chances. But despite putting the puck in the crease several times, Pittsburgh couldn’t quite punch it in the net.
With four minutes remaining in the first period, Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell and Gagne led a rush up the ice into the offensive zone. All three players crisply passed the puck tic-tac-toe style up the ice before Purcell snapped a shot that hit two posts. It bounced into the crease right to a waiting Gagne, who smacked it into the cage.
The goal stole all of the Penguins’ momentum, and the desperate Lightning rode the tide to a victory.
(AP) - Steven Stamkos scored the first two playoff goals of his NHL career and the Tampa Bay Lightning emphatically avoided elimination with a convincing 8-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in Game 5 of the first-round series.
Stamkos' 96 goals over the past two seasons led the NHL, but he had only one assist over the first four games of the series. He had three points on Saturday.
The Penguins, who lead the series 3-2, will get a second chance to advance Monday night at Tampa Bay.
- Chris Conner scored his first-ever playoff goal midway through the third period. Maxime Talbot – who notched two assists in the game – fed a perfect pass into the slot to Conner.
- The attendance on Saturday was 18,535 – the Penguins’ 209th straight sellout – and the largest crowd in the history of CONSOL Energy Center.
- The Penguins couldn’t close out the series at home on Saturday, but that’s OK because head coach Dan Bylsma is 5-1 in playoff series – with all five series-clinching wins coming on the road.
- Through the first four games, Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier combined for just nine points. On Saturday, they tallied a combined three goals and four assists.
- Arron Asham’s four-game point streak (3G-1A) officially ended on Saturday. It was the longest postseason streak of his career.
- Tyler Kennedy ripped a career-high eight shots at the net while dishing out two hits. He now leads the series in shots with 23, and he has two goals – one of them a game-winner.
- Alex Kovalev recorded an assist in the game, which was the 100th career playoff point in his career. He's the 78th player in NHL history to reach that milestone.
#1. Steven Stamkos
Center - 91
2 goals (1 PP)
1 assist, 3 points
Plus-1, 3 shots
#2. Simon Gagne
Left Wing - 12
#3. Pavel Kubina
Defenseman - 13
2 PP goals
Author: Tony Jovenitti