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Snap Shots: Lightning 4, Penguins 2

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 4-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

* For whatever reason, the Penguins struggle in the opening period in Tampa Bay. The Lightning always have the early jump and the crowd gets involved off the opening puck drop. Even Evgeni Malkin said on Wednesday that Pittsburgh needs to be better at the start.

History, however, repeated itself.

The Lightning took a 2-0 lead and fired 16 shots in the first period. The Penguins were on their heels the entire time. After that, it was a pretty even game with both teams trading chances. But Pittsburgh squandered 20 minutes of action, and had to play from behind.

Though they did claw back to get within one goal, facing a good team and a hot goaltender, it wasn't enough.  

* The Penguins' power play has had its struggles this season, and it was an issue again tonight. Pittsburgh went 0-for-5, and this after going 0-for-6 against Washington in the previous game. But in the third period and trailing, 3-2, Pittsburgh had 1:34 minutes worth of a 5-on-3.

That was the make-or-break moment of the game. If the Penguins score then it becomes a tie game and all the momentum is in Pittsburgh's favor. At one juncture, Bryan Rust hit the post and a scramble ensued, but the Penguins couldn't find a way to get the puck in. Alas, they failed to score and the comeback failed.

If Rust scores, maybe the Penguins pull off the comeback. But two inches was the difference in this game. And the two inches went against the Penguins.

* The Penguins pulled out all the stops to try and flip the momentum in the game, including uniting a line combination of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust. The team used the trio late in the second period after falling behind, 3-1. They remained together for the rest of the game.

* Goaltender Matt Murray got the nod in goal for Pittsburgh coming off of a brilliant 29-save victory against the Washington Capitals, the team with the best record in the league and second-ranked offense. He had another tall task against Tampa's dynamic offense, which ranked third in the NHL.

Once again, Murray held his own. He was moving well laterally, squaring up perfectly on shots and making himself look big in the net. Murray is at his best when he takes up space and challenges shots.

Murray's stop on a shorthanded breakaway by Anthony Cirelli kept it a one-goal game in the third period, but this time around the Penguins couldn't mount a comeback.

* Rookie defenseman John Marino had good news and bad news in the game. He scored his fifth goal and 25th point of the season early in the third period. But later in the frame he took a deflected Steven Stamkos shot off the cheek. He was down for some time, but eventually was able to get to his feet to leave the game.

* It was that kind of game for the Penguins. Two other players - Kris Letang and Brandon Tanev - also were stunned after blocking shots. But thankfully, both were able to return and finish the game.

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