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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Lightning 3 OT

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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I’m always reluctant to say that a game in the first week of February is a must-win. However, that’s exactly what Pittsburgh’s game against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night was…a must-win.

Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes were on life support with the team trailing 3-0 in the third period. But Evgeni Malkin nearly single-handedly turned a flat line into a resurrection by leading the Penguins to an improbable 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory.

Malkin netted two goals, including the overtime winner, and added an assist for a three-point night to salvage Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes.

Pittsburgh needs to collect five points during this four-game home stand to stay afloat in the postseason race. The Penguins are off to a good start after securing two points in the opening game of the stretch. But there is plenty of work left to be done.

The final three games of this home stretch could make or break Pittsburgh. Either the Penguins come up with a couple of big wins and gain some momentum or they could fall into a deep hole with little time to climb out.
(AP) - Evgeni Malkin finished a frantic Pittsburgh rally with 15.5 seconds left in overtime for his second goal and the Penguins, looking lifeless while trailing by three goals early in the third, surged to beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Wednesday night.

Malkin began the comeback, apparently set off when he was checked by former teammate Mark Recchi into a corner early in the third, by scoring his first goal not long after that. He later set up Petr Sykora's tying goal with 3:29 remaining in regulation after Sykora assisted on Mark Eaton's goal.

The Penguins, three points below the Eastern Conference's playoff cutoff coming in, were in danger of losing their fourth in a row until NHL points leader Malkin scored his 23rd and 24th goals. Tampa Bay led 3-0 in rookie goalie Mike McKenna's first career start before dropping its fourth in a row.

Evgeni Malkin celebrates his overtime winning goal (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Comeback
The Penguins entered the third period trailing 3-0. With 20 minutes remaining in a must-win game, Pittsburgh played with desperation and threw everything that they had in the final frame. The Penguins’ efforts were rewarded when they netted three scores to force an overtime session. Pittsburgh rode that momentum and nailed the game-winning goal with 15.5 seconds left in the extra frame. But they never would have pulled off the comeback if they didn’t believe.

What Didn't Work: 5-on-3 Opportunity
The Penguins missed an incredible opportunity to get back in the game halfway through the second period when they had a full two-minute five-on-three power play while trailing 2-0. Tampa Bay was caught with too many men on the ice. The Lightning were assessed a second penalty after protesting the first. Pittsburgh got off a couple of shots but could not score. Luckily it didn't hurt the Penguins in the end.
Evgeni Malkin refused to let the Penguins fall victim to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Staring at a 3-0 deficit in the third period, Malkin put the Penguins on his back and carried them through an astonishing comeback to force overtime. Malkin was on the ice for all four of Pittsburgh’s goals and tallied two goals and an assist for a three-point performance. Malkin also had seven shots on goal and four hits. He started the comeback by creating a turnover in the Lightning zone and slamming a rebound into the goal. Malkin then made the centering pass that led to Pittsburgh’s game-tying goal with less than four minutes left. The Russian continued his inspiring performance in the overtime session and clinched the victory by netting the overtime winning score with 15.5 seconds left. (read more about Malkin's heroics here)
Two of Tampa Bay’s Pittsburgh connections teamed up to score the game’s opening goal. Pittsburgh native Ryan Malone tried to stuff the puck in on a wraparound attempt. Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was there to deny the try. The puck slid out to the slot where former Penguin Mark Recchi took a shot. Recchi’s attempt was blocked but Malone was there to slam the puck across the goal line. Tampa Bay 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Martin St. Louis extended the Lightning lead with his 19th goal of the season. Vincent Lecavalier had the puck on the far mid-wall and made a laser cross-ice pass to St. Louis in the near circle. The Laval native buried a one-timer for the score. Tampa Bay 2, Pittsburgh 0.

Lecavalier connected on his 24th score of the year late in the second period. The Quebec native entered the Penguins zone with a lot of speed and dished the puck to Vaclav Prospal. The Penguins were scrambling in front of their net when Prospal sneaked a pass through the crease that Lecavalier buried on the opposite side. Tampa Bay 3, Pittsburgh 0.

Evgeni Malkin broke the shutout bid of Mike McKenna, who was starting his first career NHL game. Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger’s breakout pass was intercepted by Malkin at the Tampa blue line. Malkin skated in and dropped the puck to Pascal Dupuis, who one-timed a shot off the post. The puck died in the crease and Malkin, who skated around the back of the goal, sweeped the puck across the goal line. Tampa Bay 3, Pittsburgh 1.

The Penguins netted a dirty goal to pull within one score of the Lightning. Petr Sykora picked up the puck behind the Tampa Bay net. His centering attempt squirted through the crease and into the far circle. Mark Eaton, pinching in from his defensive position, sent a shot towards the net that deflected off of Tampa’s Steve Eminger and behind McKenna. Tampa Bay 3, Pittsburgh 2.

The Penguins cash in with an ugly power-play score. Malkin pushed the puck towards the front of the net from along the goal line. The puck bounced around in the Tampa Bay crease before Sykora, in the midst of a scrum, found a way to bat the puck into the goal. Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 3.

Evgeni Malkin put the finishing touches on Pittsburgh’s come-from-behind victory by scoring the game-winning overtime goal. Jordan Staal had the puck below the goal line. He went strong to the net and made a centering pass to Malkin. The Russian native blasted the puck into the goal on one knee to give Pittsburgh the win. Pittsburgh 4, Tampa Bay 3.
With five minutes left in the game and the Penguins trailing, 3-2, Matt Cooke goaded former Penguin Gary Roberts into taking an ill-advised penalty to give Pittsburgh a late power-play opportunity. The Penguins tied the game on the ensuing chance and forced overtime.

Miroslav Satan nearly netted the go-ahead goal with less than three minutes left in the game with a great opportunity in the high slot. He sent a backhand shot on goal but goaltender Mike McKenna was able to get his body on the puck.
> Pittsburgh improved to 25-23-5 on the year, with a 13-10-2 mark at Mellon Arena.

> TB, R.Malone (16), 15:25 1st period: Lightning 1, Penguins 0.
TB, St. Louis (19), 5:00 2nd period: Lightning 2, Penguins 0.
TB, V.Lecavalier (24), 16:52 2nd period: Lightning 3, Penguins 0.
PIT, E.Malkin (23), 2:25 3rd period: Lightning 3, Penguins 1.
PIT, M.Eaton (2), 14:06 3rd period: Lightning 3, Penguins 2.
PIT, P.Sykora PP (20), 16:31 3rd period: Penguins 3, Lightning 3.
PIT, E.Malkin (24), 4:44, OT: Penguins 4, Lightning 3.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied three points (2G-1A) against Tampa Bay to extend his NHL lead in points to 79 (24G-55A). Malkin’s 55 assists are a league best. In his last 13 games, Malkin has collected nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points.

> Malkin is riding a six-game scoring streak with six goals and four assists for 10 points in that stretch. He’s netted at least one goal in his last four games (five total). Malkin has notched a point in 10 of his last 11 games.

> Sidney Crosby recorded an assist against the Lightning. He is still second in the league in scoring with 69 points (20G-49A) and his 49 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 55. Crosby has at least one point in 10 of his last 12 games, posting five goals and 14 assists for 19 points in that span.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (24+55=79) and Crosby (20+49=69). 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 21 saves to record his 17th win of the season.

> Petr Sykora notched a goal and assist for a two-point night against Tampa. 

> Brooks Oprik posted an assist against Tampa Bay to give him 11 on the season, a new career high.

> Miroslav Satan played in his 1,000th career NHL game. He is the ninth Penguin in history to achieve the feat.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 92nd straight game with a standing room only attendance of 16,977.
1. E.Malkin, PIT
2. V.Lecavalier, TB
3. P.Sykora, PIT
"We need to make playoffs and we needed (to)
win (Tampa) game and next game too."
- Evgeni Malkin


Author: Sam Kasan

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