The Penguins needed extra time, but they were able to come away with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center.
Evgeni Malkin led the way for the Penguins with four points, including two goals in the third period. But it was James Neal who stole the spotlight, as he ended the game with a power-play goal 1:27 into overtime.
Neal had been going through a tough stretch recently, going goalless in his last seven games entering Saturday in addition to missing two games with a concussion. So Malkin was thrilled that his longtime linemate was able to break through in a big way today with the game-winner.
“(Neal) was so mad, he had a lot of scoring chances, but didn’t score,” Malkin said. “Sometimes it happens. He’s worked hard too and today I’m glad he scored his big goal.”
The Penguins had a 3-2 lead late in the third, but allowed Lightning rookie Ondrej Palat to score the tying goal that forced overtime with 1:22 left in the game. While the Penguins weren’t happy they weren’t able to close it out in regulation, they were pleased with the way they were able to stay focused and eventually get the job done.
“We played a good-paced game,” Malkin said. “We were focused the whole 60 minutes. We just came to step on the ice and play 60 minutes. We played against Philadelphia and lost two games and came in the locker room and said, ‘We need to play better,’ and the next three games we played so much better.”
Pittsburgh’s power play, which was mired in a 1-for-21 drought entering the game, broke out of its slump in a big way by converting three of six chances on Saturday – including Neal’s tally in overtime.
“Adjustments are made from game to game, situation to situation and team to team,” head coach Dan Bylsma said of the power play’s turnaround. “There certainly was some. Really our focus the last 15 games has been (having a) playoff mentality. You’re not going to score every power play. You’re not going to go over the boards and be perfect every time. Teams will stop you in a game.
“That focus on the next-play mentality on the power play and gaining from the power play has been the focus. Even tonight when we failed to score on the second and third power plays, we gained momentum with that mentality. They stepped over the boards at a big time in the third period down a goal. It wasn’t a tic-tac-toe perfect power play. It was a puck to the net and crash. (Niskanen) gets the puck to the net and (Malkin) scores the rebound goal.”
Malkin explained that lately the emphasis has been on playing an overall better game, which included working on the power play.
“It’s all work,” Malkin said. “We watch video and practice during morning skate. It’s all work, you know. We can’t score every game of course and a couple of games we didn’t score and we saw the video and today we played so much better.”
Malkin wasn’t the only Penguins superstar to have a big game on Saturday.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored the first goal of the game on the power play when Malkin dished it to him from the side of the goal. Crosby teed it up and blasted a one-timer past Lightning goalie Anders Lindback to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. And who gave the puck to Malkin? None other than starting goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who recorded his first career NHL point.
Crosby also assisted on Malkin’s power-play goal and on Neal’s game-winning goal to end the afternoon with three points.
MORE ON MALKIN
Crosby’s goal wouldn’t have been possible without the speed and hockey sense of Malkin, who used his speed to pivot around two Tampa Bay players to get in prime position to pass it over to Crosby.
However, it wasn’t just Malkin’s assist that helped the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay – it was his two third-period goals in the third period that ultimately lifted them to victory.
On his first goal of the third, Malkin got the puck off of a Matt Niskanen rebound and tapped it in in front of the net 11:07 into the third period. He then followed up his power-play goal with a backhander spin-o-rama with a little over three minutes remaining in the game.
“(Malkin) was flying,” Crosby said. “He just dominated the whole night. Had the puck the whole game, drew I think two or three penalties at least. He was on fire. It’s fun to see your teammates play like that and get rewarded.”
Zatkoff, who is now 12-2-1 in his last 14 games played, agreed with Crosby on Malkin dominating the game.
“Both (Crosby and Malkin) and Malkin in particular has been an animal out there,” Zatkoff said. “He’s so big and strong and just controls the play in the offensive zone and just has so much skill and he took over the game today.”
ADAMS REACHES 276
Craig Adams dressed for his 276th straight NHL game on Saturday, tying Nick Harbaruk for the third-most consecutive games played in Penguins history. To help Adams celebrate this milestone was his son Rhys, who was the Penguins Junior Starter of the Game. It took a little coaxing to get Rhys out on the ice, but when he skated over to his dad at the blue line for the national anthem, he received a roaring round of applause from the fans.
Author: Addison Smith