It was the Sidney Crosby Show in Tampa, Florida Saturday night. The Penguins captain scored a hat trick against the Lightning to lift Pittsburgh to a 5-4 victory at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Crosby’s first two goals against the Tampa Bay were the result of a similar theme: crashing the crease. Crosby showed no fear against the Bolts and was a common presence, setting up residence in front of goaltender Andres Lindback’s face.
“Pucks are going to be around (the front of the net),” Crosby said. “It’s not an easy place to go. You have to force yourself to got here as much as you can. Luckily, there were some pucks around there and I was able to get some quality chances from there.”
Crosby, who recorded his eighth career hat trick, found a Jussi Jokinen rebound in the slot, kicked the puck to his own tape and transferred it into the goal for a power-play tally to tie the game at 1-1 in the second period.
The Penguins entered the third period trailing 3-2 and needing a goal to tie. Crosby took care of that in just 25 seconds. Crosby skated in front of Lindback and then re-directed Rob Scuderi’s shot into the net to tie the contest at 3-3.
“I love the response and leadership from our team coming out in the third period and the first shift,” head coach Dan Bylsma said, “getting to the offensive zone and coming up with a goal to tie the game.”
Crosby, who ended the night with four points, finished off the trick after receiving a pass in circle with the Penguins on a power play. Crosby sniped a shot short side and low that edged past Lindback’s pad.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen was taking a regular shift on the Penguins’ power play as the team deployed two blueliners at the point. The Penguins kept setting him up for one-timers from the left point, but wasn’t able to covert any. Until…
With the game tied at 4-4 and less than a minute to go, Richard Panik took a penalty to give Pittsburgh a late power-play opportunity.
Evgeni Malkin pushed the puck to Niskanen on the left point and he hammered, absolutely hammered, a one-timer shot past Lindback’s blocker short side to give the Penguins a 5-4 lead with 18.6 seconds left.
“I had that shot a couple times earlier in the game,” Niskanen said. “One the goalie made a nice save and I missed the net on a couple. ‘Geno’ made a nice pass and it went in.”
The Penguins opted to use two defensemen on the blue line for their power play as opposed to using four forwards. That led to an increased number of opportunities for Niskanen to get off his shot.
“That was his third or fourth shot that he got off in the game from there,” Bylsma said. “It was timely for us. It was a good give-and-go play. ‘Geno’ finds a seam there. Matt put the one-timer home.”
Niskanen’s frequent opportunities had more to do with the Penguins reacting to the Lightning defense rather than an asserted effort by Pittsburgh to get Niskanen the puck. The Penguins took what the Lightning PK gave them.
“It was just there,” Crosby said. “The middle of the ice was taken away. They took away a couple options, took away (Jokinen), ‘Geno’ and myself. That lane was there. ‘Nisky’ has a great shot, right-hand shot, one-timer and he took advantage of it.”
ORPIK ON THE BOARD
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik is known more for his crushing hits (free candy) more than his offensive prowess. After going the entire 2012-13 regular season without a goal, Orpik will not go scoreless in 2013-14.
Orpik deflected a shot from the point by Pascal Dupuis into the net for his first goal of the year, and first regular-season goal since Nov. 21, 2011 vs. NY Islanders – a 110-game goalless drought (Orpik did however score the series clinching overtime goal in Game 6 of the opening round series against the Islanders, but the NHL doesn’t recognize postseason in terms of streaks).
“That’s a good offensive player,” Niskanen said of Orpik’s goal. “I was joking with him that it’s easy to be a forward and tip pucks. That’s a nice goal by him.”
*Nineteen-year-old rookie defenseman Olli Maatta was involved in an ugly collision with teammate Deryk Engelland behind the Penguins net early in the third period. Maatta got to his feet, but left immediately for the locker room. He returned after a few minutes and finished the game.
*The Penguins power play scored three goals (two from Crosby and the winner from Niskanen). The man-advantage unit finished the game 3-for-5. The Lightning power play went 2-for-5 as the two teams combined for five power-play goals.
Author: Sam Kasan