The Lightning learned a valuable lesson Saturday afternoon against the Penguins: Don’t make Evgeni Malkin
A motivated Malkin scored three goals for his ninth career hat trick and added an assist for a four-point game as the Pens routed the Lightning 8-1 at CONSOL Energy Center. Jordan Staal
added two goals and an assist for a three-point game. James Neal
had three assists and Chris Kunitz
added two points (1G-1A) as 11 players recorded points for Pittsburgh.
DON'T ANGER THE INCREDIBLE "MALK
Malkin went on a rampage after he was involved in a ruckus in front of the Lightning net in the second period. Motivated by that scrum, Malkin would get the last laugh with a dominant effort. More on Malkin’s mighty response here.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
has elevated his play to a Herculean level. There was a two-minute sequence in the second period that is a microcosm of the netminder’s prodigious play of late as he made three titanic saves.
“It was interesting, definitely,” Fleury said of the sequence. “It was fun though as long as they don’t go in. It was good and I was happy with it.”
First came a stop on the NHL’s goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos. The Bolt carried the puck in on a breakaway. Fleury came out to poke-check. Stamkos lifted the puck over Fleury’s stick, but Fleury got his glove on the puck to make the save.
Fleury’s best save of the game came seconds later against Trevor Smith. Fleury was hugging his left goal post when the Lightning made a centering pass, through traffic, to Smith in the slot. Smith quickly ripped a one-timer on goal. Fleury didn’t even get his head around to see the puck, but still instinctively did a split and threw out a pad. The puck dejectedly smacked off his pad.
“I just thought it was going there so I get my pad there and get a piece of it,” Fleury said. “I was fortunate to.”
Fleury’s trinity save came on a breakaway by Martin St. Louis. After a breakdown in the neutral zone, St. Louis entered the zone all alone. Fleury challenged the St. Louis’ shot and squeezed it against his body. He made it look easy.
“I try not to think too much. I just try to stay patient,” Fleury said of the breakaway stops. “They both have good shots, but good hands also. It’s kind of tough to know what they’re going to go with. I just try to stick with everything and stay patient.”
Fleury finished the game with 34 saves for his 32nd win of the season.
“This game certainly could have been a different look if he didn’t make four or five spectacular saves. He was really strong in a couple of areas,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We left him with a couple breakaways as well against some good players. You look up and feel good at 5-0. It could have easily been a much closer game than that. He played remarkable.
“At the end you see 8-1, but the score could have been a lot differently if Marc-Andre hadn’t been really good this game. “
Pens center Jordan Staal
scored his 20th and 21st goal of the season with a shorthanded and power-play tally.
“I think he’s got a better understanding of where he can have success and play offense,” Bylsma said of Staal. “I think it gives him more time with the puck. It gives him more space with the puck. ... In addition to that, I don’t think he gets credit on how well he can skate because he’s a bigger, longer-bodied guy. He may not look as great skating, but he is a big and strong skater as well.”
Staal’s scored his 20th goal with the team down one man in the final five minutes of the first period.
Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman couldn’t keep the puck in the zone at the near blue line. When he turned to retrieve the rubber, he bumped into the linesman, effectively taking himself out of the play.
Staal jumped on the opportunity. Skating full speed ahead, Staal picked up the puck in the neutral zone and entered the Tampa zone on a breakaway. He snapped a quick shot through the legs of Roloson for the marker.
“I’m sure (Hedman would) like to have that back,” Staal said of the linesman’s pick. “It was a fortunate bounce and I’ll take it.
Staal scored his power-play goal halfway through the second period with Pittsburgh on a 4-on-3 advantage. Staal carried the puck on a 2-on-2 rush with Steve Sullivan
. Staal dished to Sullivan and both Bolts jumped on the winger. Sullivan slid a cross-ice pass to Staal, who easily tapped it into the vacated net.
“I just kind of fed it over to (Sullivan). I know he’s a great passer,” Staal said. “He made a great pass to find me on the other side of the net.”
Staal has now hit the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in his NHL career. He has six goals in his last seven games.
“I think I’m getting a lot of opportunities offensively,” Staal said. “Getting that chance to play a lot more on the offensive side of the puck and on the power play today, different things like that. Plus I’m playing with some good linemates as well. It’s been going in for me.”
Defenseman Brooks Orpik
returned to the lineup after missing the team’s Tuesday contest against the NY Rangers with an upper-body injury.
Goalie Brent Johnson
missed the game after tweaking something at the team’s Thursday practice. Brad Thiessen
served as the team’s backup.
Author: Sam Kasan