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Aftermath: Penguins 3, Lightning 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins shrugged off a sloppy start, took the lead and grinded out a victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Pittsburgh, which is 3-0-0 on its current five-game road trip, has won four consecutive contests and is 6-1-1 since interim head coach Dan Bylsma took over. Pittsburgh looks like a confident, energetic hockey club. They are building momentum at the right time.

The postseason race is extremely tight (see below) and now it really gets interesting. The Penguins will play their most important game of the season on Thursday at Florida. It is a key battle between two teams that are fighting for a precious playoff spot. The Panthers have been tearing up the league since January and will try to derail the Penguins' recent success.
(AP) - Chris Kunitz had two goals to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Matt Cooke also scored for the Penguins, eighth in the Eastern Conference. Marc-Andre Fleury made his 14th consecutive start, posting a 9-4-1 record over that stretch.

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby missed his fourth straight game - all Penguins victories - due to a groin injury. He did take part in Tuesday's morning skate, though.

Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 62 34-18-10 78
5. Montreal 63 34-22-7 75
6. Florida 64 33-23-8 74
7. NY Rangers 64 32-24-8 72
8. Pittsburgh 65 33-26-6 72
9. Carolina 65 33-27-5 71
10. Buffalo 63 31-25-7 69
Team Notables:
Buffalo: Off-day: Hosts Montreal, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Carolina: Defeated Washington, 5-2
Florida: Defeated Atlanta, 4-3
Montreal: Off-day: Plays at Buffalo, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
NY Rangers: Off-day: Plays at NY Islanders, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: Defeated Boston, 4-2

Eric Godard battled David Koci (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Just Win, Baby
It wasn’t a spectacular showing by the Penguins. They didn’t score a ton of “beautiful” goals or completely dominate the game. Instead, they played a solid and sound 60 minutes. Pittsburgh did what it needed to do at both ends of the ice. The Penguins got the lead and grinded out the win, and that’s all that matters.

What Could Have Gone Better: Fedotenko Goal
Ruslan Fedotenko stared at an empty net as he skated into the Tampa Bay zone as time was running out. Fedotenko has been tremendous in the past two games and looked as if he would be rewarded with a goal. Unfortunately, his shot hit the outside of the post. 
When the Penguins acquired Chris Kunitz last Thursday, interim head coach Dan Bylsma said that he knew, if nothing else, that Kunitz would spend a lot of time around the net. Kunitz scored two goals for the Penguins, including the winner. He tallied both by going to the net. On the first, he picked up a bouncing rebound above the crease and batted it in. On his second goal, Kunitz grabbed a rebound atop the crease and converted the score.
The newest Penguin, Chris Kunitz, continued his scoring spree by netting the game’s first goal. The play started when Tyler Kennedy grabbed the puck in the Pittsburgh zone and started up ice with a three-on-two break. Jordan Staal drove to the net while Kennedy threw the puck on goal. Tampa Bay netminder Karri Ramo pushed the puck to the opposite side. Martin St. Louis, the third-man back, couldn’t play the rebound and overskated the play. That left Kunitz all alone with Ramo. It took him two cracks but Kunitz eventually buried the puck. Pittsburgh 1, Tampa Bay 0.

Former Penguin Ryan Malone helped the Lightning tie the game. Malone intercepted an Evgeni Malkin pass in the Lightning slot. Malone threw a pass up ice to Vincent Lecavalier for a two-on-one. Lecavalier goaded Brooks Orpik to the ice and then sent a cross-slot pass to Vaclav Prospal, who nailed the one-timer. Pittsburgh 1, Tampa Bay 1.

Kunitz scored his second goal of the game with a power-play score. Malkin fed the puck to Petr Sykora in the high slot. Sykora was on his backhand and could only send a soft shot to the net. But Ramo didn’t smother the puck. Kunitz, who sneaked in behind the Lightning defense, snapped the puck into the goal. Pittsburgh 2, Tampa Bay 1.

Pascal Dupuis displayed some beautiful skating before setting up Matt Cooke’s ninth goal of the season. Dupuis skated with speed into the Tampa zone, pulled up and spun around to get some separation from Tampa’s Lukas Krajicek. Dupuis then threw the puck to Cooke in the high slot. Cooke blew a one-timed shot into the top right corner. Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 1.
Sidney Crosby’s lingering groin injury continued to plague the superstar. He sat out his fourth consecutive game with the injury. Crosby has been able to practice but the injury hasn’t healed enough to play.

David Koci ran Sergei Gonchar into the boards in the preseason, causing the shoulder separation that forced the All-Star blueliner out of the lineup until February. Eric Godard tried to extract some revenge when he dropped the gloves with Koci. Unfortunately neither player landed a solid punch before they fell to the ice and were separated.
> Pittsburgh improved to 33-26-6 on the year, with a 16-14-4 mark on the road. Pittsburgh has won four straight games and is 6-1-1 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> Scoring Summary:
PIT, C.Kunitz (18), 7:38 1st period: Penguins 1, Lightning 0
TB, V.Prospal (17), 12:23 1st period: Penguins 1, Lightning 1
PIT, C.Kunitz PP (19), 16:44 1st period: Penguins 2, Lightning 1
PIT, M.Cooke (9), 12:26 2nd period: Penguins 3, Lightning 1

> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assist against Tampa Bay to extend his NHL lead in points to 93 (29G-64A). Malkin’s 64 assists are a league-best and a new single-season career high. Malkin has a point in his last 11 road games for 18 (8G-8A) in that stretch. 

> Malkin has a nine-game scoring streak in which he’s tallied 13 points (5G-8A). Malkin has notched a point in 20 of his last 23 games.

> Sidney Crosby did not play against the Lightning with a groin injury, the fourth straight game he’s missed. He is third in the league in scoring with 79 points (23G-56A) and his 56 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 63.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves to net his sixth win in his past seven games. The victory was the 101st of his career. He is only the third goalie in Penguins’ history to hit the century mark and is three shy of Ken Wregget (104) for second place on the Penguins’ all-time wins list.

> Chris Kunitz scored two goals against Tampa Bay. He has a five-game scoring streak in which he’s tallied seven points (4G-3A). He has three goals and two assists for five points in three games since Pittsburgh traded for him..

> Matt Cooke scored his first goal in eight contests.
1. C.Kunitz, PIT
2. P.Dupuis, PIT
3. V.Lecavalier, TB
“We have to keep building on what we’ve done so far,
get two points at a time, one game at a time.”
- Chris Kunitz told Versus Network


Author: Sam Kasan

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