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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Once again, the Penguins battled back from a 4-1 deficit, but fell to Tampa Bay in a shootout, 5-4, Tuesday night at Mellon Arena.

Jani Rita and Sidney Crosby failed to score in the shootout for the Penguins, while Brad Richards and Vaclav Prospal tallied to give Tampa Bay the 2-0 shootout victory.

“We had another comeback. It’s not the habit we want to get into and it seems like we’ve had to do it a lot this year, but I think it’s always been a test of character and we’ve always passed that,” Crosby said. “That shows a lot. It’s pretty amazing, too, with the way the fans have reacted when we’re behind like that. They get behind us and it’s pretty amazing, especially with the way things have been going. We have to give thanks to them. We just keep trying to play with energy and not give up.”

The loss is the Penguins’ third-straight – the team got down early, but battled back in all three games.

“We got a great effort again. We don’t have the wins; the results are not on our side, but we all know as a team that the team concept is there. The work ethic is there,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “Eventually, it’s going to pay off. We’re working on our foundation right now. When we lose a little bit of focus, we’re getting hurt. That’s part of the process.”

Dan Boyle gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 3:00 into the game. His shot deflected off the end boards, top of the net and off Marc-Andre Fleury’s back and into the net.

“We play to get the lead. We play to set the tone, especially in our building. The first goal for them was a bad break, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Therrien said. “We don’t play on our heels; we play on our toes. We tried to generate a lot of offense. I thought we had a great first period. [Tampa Bay goalie John] Grahame was outstanding.”

Indeed, Grahame came through with several key saves in the first period.

The Penguins finally got one past him when Ryan Malone tied the game at 1-1 6:02 into the second period with a power-play goal. He deflected Ryan Whitney’s shot from the near point past Grahame.

Dimitry Afanasenkov gave the Lightning a 2-1 advantage just 1:26 later.

Tampa Bay posted a 3-1 lead when Fredrik Modin fired a shot past Fleury 1:30 later.

Boyle scored a power-play goal 21 seconds into the third to give the Lightning a 4-1 edge.

Crosby’s power-play goal 5:11 into the third period sliced the Penguins’ deficit to 4-2. Sergei Gonchar and John LeClair had assists.

Josef Melichar ripped a shot past Grahame with 9:59 to play. Crosby whipped a nifty backhanded pass to Melichar at the top of the slot. Mark Recchi had the other assist.

Whitney tied the game at 4-all when his shot from the near point deflected off a Tampa Bay defenseman and went into the net with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Neither team scored in overtime.

ICE CHIPS: Cory Cross and Brooks Orpik were the Penguins’ scratches…The announced attendance was 15,048…Cross missed the game as his wife gave birth to a daughter.

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