The Pittsburgh Penguins (34-14-8) won their third game in a row, this time beating, nay dominating, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (35-12-6). The Penguins made only rare mistakes, held their own in the rough stuff, and got goals from their superstars and second scoring in the 5-1 win at Amalie Arena.
The game had the tense atmosphere of a playoff preview, complete with intensity and scrums. Sidney Crosby netted a power-play goal, Evgeni Malkin buried a breakaway, as did Brock McGinn. And Danton Heinen chipped a rebound into the net. Jake Guentzel (26) scored the empty netter with six minutes remaining.
It’s been so long, fans and perhaps the Penguins themselves may not have recognized the team that showed up in the first period. The Penguins dominated Tampa Bay for nearly the entirety of the first period, which extended through the game. The Penguins outshot Tampa Bay 16-5 and had more shot attempts, 31-14. The Penguins also outscored Tampa Bay, 2-0, too.
A few minutes into the game, the Penguins effort to get to the net and pressure Tampa Bay was evident. Center Evgeni Malkin galloped out of his own zone, dished to Kasperi Kapanen on the right wing, and barged to the net. Danton Heinen (12) finished Kapanen’s rebound.
It was both a 5v5 goal and a marker from a secondary scorer. Both have been missing from the Pittsburgh Penguins game.
The Penguins power play also turned Tampa Bay inside out. After over one minute of crisp puck movement and retrieval, Jake Guenzel surprised everyone with a cross-slot pass to Sidney Crosby (17), whose wrister found the yawning cage.
Late in the first period, Jake Guentzel had more shots than the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3.
The Penguins pushed the play, but a mistake wound up in their net. Midway through the second period, Kris Letang’s soft backhand pass became a short breakaway goal for Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (7).
However, the Penguins’ domination of the game largely continued. By the end of the second period, the Penguins were outshooting Tampa Bay, 28-13, and they extended their lead to 3-1 later in the period.
Jeff Carter and Evan Rodrigues created a defensive zone turnover, and Rodrigues sprang Brock McGinn on a breakaway. McGinn (11) further dipped Andre Vasilevskiy’s stats by slipping a shot through the Vezina favorite’s five-hole.
At the end of the second period, the creaking sound was Pandora’s box opening. Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman, who was agitating Tampa Bay for much of the period, received a healthy slash by Corey Perry. The Lighting’s Perry then slashed goalie Tristan Jarry after a whistle.
Friedman bodyslammed Perry. Jarry added a few cross-checks. Gloved punches and tackles ensued. Jim Carr didn’t have to yell, “This is hockey,” but it almost got there. The Penguins received a power play after Perry and Anthony Cirelli received roughing calls to match Friedman’s. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper got the boot for arguing (abuse of officials).
The Pittsburgh Penguins got a 5v3 power play which bridged the end of the second period and minute of the third. The Penguins failed to score. Even with the lead throughout the third period, the Penguins still outshot Tampa Bay 11-8.
Midway through the third period, Evgeni Malkin completed his impressive performance. After some jousting with Bellemare, Malkin (10) stole the puck at the defensive blue line for a long breakaway goal.
Tristan Jarry won the battle of Vezina hopefuls by stopping 20 of 21 shots. Vasilevskiy stopped 35 of 39. Malkin led all players with six shots. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust had five shots on goal. Malkin had three points (1-2-3).
Kris Letang and Brayden Point dropped the gloves at the end of the second period.
The Penguins won’t have time to enjoy the win. They visit the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night.