|Head coach Dan Bylsma talked after the morning skate about how critical the first 10 minutes of the game was going to be for the Penguins after coming home following a long road trip. His team answered their coaches call by flying out of the gate and dominating those opening minutes of the first period, getting the first seven shots of the game and taking an early 1-0 when Bill Guerin banged home the rebound of an Evgeni Malkin shot 4:57 into the game. |
Although the Penguins led 2-0 after 20 minutes, they gave Tampa Bay several golden opportunities to get back into the hockey game by taking the next four consecutive penalties. They were able to kill off three, but Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal to cut the Tampa Bay deficit in half.
As they have all season, the Penguins responded quickly, restoring a two-goal advantage less than two minutes after the Stamkos’ score when Pascal Dupuis deflected a Sergei Gonchar shot behind Antero Niittymaki to make it 3-1. That goal took a lot of the wind out of the Lightning.
The Penguins preserved their lead late in the game by continuing to play as if they were protecting a one-goal lead. Jay McKee gave his body up four times in the third period while Mark Eaton blocked a shot with his throat in the final three minutes of the game.
|WHAT HAPPENED |
|PITTSBURGH (AP) - Sergei Gonchar had a goal and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins improved to 7-1 on the season with a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. |
Pittsburgh's start is the franchise's second-best. The best was 7-0-1 in 1995 and another 7-1 start came in 1986.
|SHOT OF THE NIGHT |
Mike Rupp smiles after scoring a goal against Tampa Bay
(photo by Getty)
|What Worked Well: Shots on Power Play |
Desperate to jump out against a Tampa Bay squad that had plenty to prove after falling 7-1 in Ottawa on Thursday night, the Penguins came out firing on their first power play after Drew Miller went off for high-sticking just 3:40 into the game. Pittsburgh moved the puck around against the Lightning box, throwing six shots towards Antero Nitttymaki. Such a strategy paid off when Bill Guerin put home the rebound of an Evgeni Malkin shot. That goal gave the Penguins the quick start they were looking for.
What Could Have Gone Better: Too Many Penalties
The Penguins got into penalty trouble for the second time in as many tries at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh took only one penalty during the first period, but took three in the second period and three more in the third. Tampa Bay finished only 1-7 with the man advantage, but a Steven Stamkos’ power-play score in the second period did cut the Penguins’ lead in half at 2-1, and could’ve given the Lightning momentum to get back into the hockey game.
|Sergei Gonchar continues to be the Penguins quiet leader on the back end. He came into the game with five points through the first seven games while averaging a team-high 25:01 of ice time, one of 15 players in the NHL to average 25 or more minutes per game. Gonchar gave the Penguins the all-important next goal late in the first period when he scored off a faceoff on a slap shot to make it 2-0. |
In the second period, Gonchar’s hard wrist shot from the right point was deflected in front by Pascal Dupuis to regain the Penguins’ two-goal advantage. Gonchar led the Penguins with a season-high plus-3 rating and spent 25:28 on the ice. Defensively, he teamed with Brooks Orpik to limit the Tampa Bay trio of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone to two points.
|SCORING SYNOPSIS |
|Pittsburgh became the seventh team in seven tries to record the first goal against the Lightning this season when they capitalized on their first power play of the evening 4:57 into the first period. Alex Goligoski passed the puck through the Lightning box to Evgeni Malkin on the right point. Malkin made a move on Matt Walker to create a shot for himself, which was stopped by Antero Niittymaki. Guerin collected the garbage for the score. Pittsburgh 1, Tampa Bay 0. |
The Penguins increased their lead to 2-0 on a faceoff play following an icing call against the Lightning at 17:10 of the first period. Sidney Crosby cleanly won the draw back to the left point to Brooks Orpik. Orpik passed over to Sergei Gonchar at the right point, and his one-timer beat Niittymaki to the stick side for the goal. Pittsburgh 2, Tampa Bay 0.
Steven Stamkos scored his fourth goal of the season when he baseball-swung the rebound of a Martin St. Louis shot out of midair and behind Marc-Andre Fleury with 13:42 to play in the second period while the Lightning were on a power play. St. Louis had broken down the left side after receiving a pass from Vincent Lecavalier, but his original shot was stopped by Fleury. Pittsburgh 2, Tampa Bay 1.
The Penguins restored their two-goal lead on the Lightning 1:57 after the goal by Stamkos. Ruslan Fedotenko emerged from the far corner with puck and fed back to Gonchar at the right point. Gonchar’s hard wrist shot was deflected in front by Pascal Dupuis behind Niittymaki for the winger’s first goal of the season. Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 1.
Hard work and physical play led to the Penguins’ final score of the night. Eric Godard began the play with a hard check on the Tampa Bay defenseman behind the net. Sidney Crosby picked up the ensuing turnover and made a beautiful backhand pass to Mike Rupp in the slot. Although covered nicely on the play, Rupp was able to get good wood on a wrist shot that beat Niitymaki on the short side. Pittsburgh 4, Tampa Bay 1.
|INTRIGUING NOTABLES |
|Head coach Dan Bylsma used Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together more at even strength against the Lightning. The pair were joined by Chris Kunitz just 25 seconds into the game after an icing call against the Lightning placed the faceoff to the left of the Tampa Bay net. They were back together later in the game on three separate occasions, each time with Ruslan Fedotenko. Crosby and Malkin failed to score together, but generated quality scoring chances each time they were on the ice. |
Pittsburgh had killed off 13 consecutive power plays by the opposition, including Tampa Bay’s first two of the evening, dating back to the Oct. 8 game against the Flyers. Steven Stamkos’ power-play score during the second period put an end to that streak. The Penguins quickly began another streak, killing off the final four Lightning chances with the man advantage.
The Penguins scored only once in four power-play chances on the night, but it wasn’t for a lack of shooting the puck. Given 2:12 of five-on-three play after Tampa Bay took three consecutive penalties late in the second period, Pittsburgh continued to fire pucks Antero Nitttymaki’s way. The Penguins finished the night with 15 shots on the power play, almost equal to their total of 18 during five-on-five play. In that total was four shots during the five-on-three sequence. Niittymaki’s strong play between the pipes was a huge factor in the Tampa Bay penalty-killing unit not allowing more than the one power-play goal.
|GAME NOTES |
|> Scoring Summary: |
PIT, B. Guerin PP (3), 4:57 1st period: Penguins 1, Lightning 0
PIT, S. Gonchar (2), 17:10 1st period: Penguins 2, Lightning 0
TB, S. Stamkos PP (4), 6:18 2nd period: Penguins 2, Lightning 1
PIT, S. Gonchar (3), 8:15 2nd period: Penguins 3, Lightning 1
PIT, M. Rupp (2), 11:21 3rd period: Penguins 4, Lightning 1
> Pittsburgh is off to their best start since the 1994-95 season when they went 7-0-1 at the outset. The Penguins now have a 7-1-0 overall record through eight games, tied with the New York Rangers for the best mark in the National Hockey League.
> The Penguins are now 25-4-4 in the regular season since head coach Dan Bylsma took over. They have a record of 12-2-1 at Mellon Arena.
> Pittsburgh improved their record to 5-5-2 in their blue third jerseys since first debuting them at the 2008 Winter Classic against the Buffalo Sabres.
> The Penguins fired 33 shots at Antero Niittymaki, the second-straight night they have recorded 30-or-more shots. Overall the Penguins are 5-0 on the season when they have 30 shots or more.
> With his two assists, Sidney Crosby tied Ron Schock for 10th place on the team’s all-time scoring list with 404 points. For his career Crosby has 136 goals and 268 assists.
> Sergei Gonchar recorded his second multiple-point game of the season with his goal and assist versus the Lightning. He now has 13 career goals against Tampa Bay, his second-highest total against one team behind the 14 goals he has scored against the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers.
> Evgeni Malkin played in his 250th career game against the Lightning. His assist gives him 196 for his career, making him four assists shy of 200 for his career.
> Pascal Dupuis’ second-period deflection goal was the 96th tally of his career. He is now four goals shy of reaching 100.
> Jay McKee, the NHL leader in blocked shots with 21 entering the game, tied a season high by recording seven. He previously blocked seven shots Oct. 10 in a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
> Brooks Orpik picked up his first point of the season when he set Gonchar up for his first-period goal leaving only Eric Godard and Chris Bourque have failed to record points on the season among players who have dressed.
> As a reminder Tuesday night’s home game against the St. Louis Blues will start at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on Versus, the national cable-provider of the NHL.
|THREE STARS ||QUOTE OF THE NIGHT |
| || |
|1. S.Gonchar |
|"We are confident in our game and we have high expectations of ourselves. When you do things right |
every night you are not always going to
win, but you are going to give yourself a
pretty good chance."
- Sidney Crosby