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Aftermath: Penguins 8, Lightning 1

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins scored just seven seconds in the game, and the team was off and running, scoring early and often.

The Penguins scored four goals in the first eight minutes of the game, and five in the first period en route to an 8-1 victory over Tampa Bay.  Chris Kunitz scored his second career hat trick and six different Penguins lit the lamp.

With Jordan Staal returning to a regular spot in the lineup, Tyler Kennedy moved onto the second line at left wing, with Staal at center and Evgeni Malkin at right wing. The tenacious, fast-paced Kennedy might seem like an odd fit on a line that features two powerful, big-bodied skaters. But the combination worked, as the second line scored two goals, one off the opening faceoff and another a few minutes later.

Matt Cooke took Kennedy’s spot on the third line – adding a physical presence that the line previously lacked – and the proverbial buzz line kept on buzzing. Chris Conner scored his fifth goal of the season just 2:23 into the game as he re-directed a Ben Lovejoy shot past Dwayne Roloson. Then, Letestu scored a goal in the second period with a wicked move down the slot to deke out Roloson with a backhander.

For as great as the Penguins played, the Lightning simply had a forgettable night, as evidenced by Steven Stamkos falling down on a penalty shot and failing to shoot the puck. Newly-acquired Roloson – who shut out the Capitals on Tuesday night – was chased from the net twice.
Chris Kunitz
In a game where so many Penguins lit the lamp, it’s tough to find a star of the game. The second line of Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy contributed two goals. Kris Letang tallied three assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury played stellar between the pipes, turning aside 30 of 31 shots.

But Chris Kunitz had a night to remember. He notched his second career hat trick in the victory.

In the first period, he scored the Penguins’ fourth and fifth goals.

His first goal came while Kennedy’s goal 7:17 into the first period was still being announced. Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis had a two-on-one, and instead of passing to Dupuis, Kunitz faked the pass to get Dwayne Roloson out of position. He ripped a slap shot from above the left circle at 7:42 that went in and out of the net so fast, the referee wasn’t even sure if it was a goal. With Conner’s goal still being announced, the horn didn’t even blow until Kunitz was celebrating with his teammates.

But Kunitz doesn’t occupy a spot on the lineup to snipe shots from the wing, rather he provides a physical net-front presence to the Penguins’ top line. For his second two goals of the evening, he showed everyone just how good he can be in that role.

Late in the first period with the Penguins on a power play, Kunitz posted up in front of goaltender Dan Ellis and deflected an Alex Goligoski slap shot into the net.

With time ticking down in the second period, Goligoski and Kunitz hooked up for an eerily similar play. Kunitz tipped the puck, and it bounced a few times before finding the back of the net.

The fans weren’t quite sure whether Kunitz was the goal-scorer, but after one fan threw a hat onto the ice, the rest of the fans followed suit.
The turning point of the game was the opening faceoff – seriously.

Prior to the game, when it was announced that Jordan Staal would be starting in his CONSOL Energy Center debut, the crowd offered him the loudest cheer of all the Penguins, since he missed every game of the season prior to the Winter Classic at Heinz Field last Saturday due to injury.

When the ref dropped the puck, Evgeni Malkin intercepted a pass and split the Tampa Bay defense for an early breakaway. He would have scored the fastest opening goal in Penguins history, but Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson stopped his initial shot. Malkin had to settle for the second-fastest goal in franchise history, since he stuck with the rebound and snapped the puck up high from a tight angle on the right side.

The Penguins were off and running, as they rattled off four more goals before the first media timeout.
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Chris Kunitz scored three goals, Evgeni Malkin got Pittsburgh going with a goal 7 seconds into the game and the Penguins, playing for the first time since the Winter Classic, beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1 on Wednesday night.

Alex Goligoski added a goal and set up three others and Kris Letang had three assists to help the Penguins end a two-game losing streak.

Pittsburgh scored four times on its first eight shots while opening a 5-0 lead in the first against the Lightning. Tampa Bay was 9-1-1 in its previous 11 after beating Washington 1-0 in overtime Tuesday night.

Despite all the goals, it was a quiet night for NHL scoring leaders Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. Crosby had an assist for the only point between them.

Crosby, shut out in his previous two games following a 25-game scoreless streak, has 66 points in 41 games as Pittsburgh is 26-12-3 midway through its season.
Evgeni Malkin’s tally seven seconds into the game was the second-fastest goal in Penguins history. Jean Pronovost holds the record by scoring six seconds after the opening faceoff in a 5-2 loss at St. Louis on March 25, 1976. It was the fastest goal in the NHL since Joe Nieuwendyk in 1998.

• Alex Goligoski scored a career-high four points, with one goal and three assists. His previous high was three points on Dec. 22, 2008 at Buffalo.

Ben Lovejoy had the first multiple-point night of his career with two assists.

• The last time Chris Kunitz scored a hat trick was Nov. 19, 2006 when he was a member of the Anaheim Ducks in a game against Phoenix.

• The Penguins outshot the Lightning 20-8 in the first period.

• Wednesday’s game marked the end of the first half of the 2010-11 season. The Penguins now have a 26-12-3 record through the first 41 contests. For comparison’s sake, the Penguins were 26-14-1 last season at this point.

• At 2:37 of the second period, Steven Stamkos, who is challenging Sidney Crosby in the goal-scoring race, was awarded a penalty shot after he was taken down on a breakaway chance. The fans once again tried to boost Marc-Andre Fleury’s confidence by chanting his name. But Fleury didn’t even need to make a save, as Stamkos lost the puck and fell down in the high slot on the shootout attempt. It was that kind of night for the Lightning.

• The Penguins improved their record to 12-4-1 in back-to-back games this season, with a chance to make improve that mark Thursday night in Montreal.

Marc-Andre Fleury lost his shutout bid 2:25 into the third period, when former Penguin Adam Hall re-directed a shot into the cage. But Fleury was still impressive in the game, stopping 31 shots for a save percentage of .969.
#1. Chris Kunitz
  Left Wing - 14
3 goals
  2 power-play goals
  5 shots on goal
#2. Alex Goligoski
  Defenseman - 3
3 assists
1 goal
plus-3 rating
#3. Kris Letang
  Defenseman - 58
3 assists
2 blocks

Author: Tony Jovenitti

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