No stars? No problem. The Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0-0) dominated the puck and outskated the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning raised their Stanley Cup banner, but the Penguins raised the tempo and scored the first three goals of the NHL season.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Zach Aston-Reese, and Mike Matheson were out of the Penguins lineup.
However, the Pittsburgh Penguins maintained their advantages even as Tampa Bay upped the pace in the third period. The Penguins blocked shots and were even effective on the penalty kill. They scored three empty-net goals for a 6-2 win over Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena.
New Penguins winger Danton Heinen, who signed a one-year $1.1 million free-agent deal, scored the first goal of the NHL season. Jeff Carter stole the puck from Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and laid it on Heinen’s stick. Heinen (1) quickly buried the shot just 12 seconds into the second period.
“It was a good forecheck by ‘Cards’ and it was all him,” Heinen said. “He made a great play and I was right spot, right time and was quick enough to get in there.”
It was an important goal as the Penguins gained more energy, and Tampa Bay seemed to lose what little they had.
A few minutes later, fellow new Penguins forward Brian Boyle scored his first NHL goal in nearly two years. Winger Sam Lafferty lifted a nifty saucer pass through traffic to an uncovered Boyle in the left-wing circle. Boyle (1) beat Vasilevskiy five-hole.
The Penguins earned a three-goal lead when Dominik Simon (1) slipped a sneaky wrist shot through traffic and past Vasilevskiy. Simon had several high-quality scoring chances, including a short breakaway in the first period.
Simon, Heinen, and Jason Zucker led the Penguins with four shots on goal.
Tampa Bay pulled the goalie with over six minutes remaining. Anthony Cirelli (1) scored shortly after when he deflected a shot past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
However, Teddy Blueger (1) ended any suspense with an empty-net goal 30 seconds later.
Tampa Bay pulled to within two goals late in the third period. Alex Killorn (1) snapped a one-timer through Brian Dumoulin and Jarry.
Again, the Penguins scored an empty-net goal shortly after. Evan Rodrigues (1) scored a long-range empty netter. Then Bryan Rust (1) got in on the fun with an empty netter, too.
The Penguins outshot Tampa Bay 35-25. Jarry stopped 26 of 28 shots. Vasilevskiy made 29 saves on 32 shots.
The Penguins blocked at least 15 shots. ESPN stats counted 15 early in the third period, but scorers didn’t credit the team with another block. Four players had two blocked shots: Heinen, Boyle, Mark Friedman, who played for Matheson, and rookie Drew O’Connor.
The Penguins play again on Thursday against the Florida Panthers in Florida.
PHN will have comments from the Penguins media availabilities shortly.