TAMPA, Fla — It wasn’t just the sputtering power play that failed the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-11-3) Wednesday. Their even-strength effort was a maddening mix of overpassing and turnovers. Not four power plays including 40 seconds of two-man advantage in the third period, could rescue the Penguins sinking ship.
The Tampa Bay Lightning (12-10-5) cruised past the disconnected Penguins 3-1 at Amalie Arena. Penguins winger Jake Guentzel (10) scored a garbage-time goal in the final minute to break the shutout.
It wasn’t much of a highlight.
And the Penguins power play has now failed 34 consecutive times.
The Penguins line shuffles lasted until the middle of the second period and coach Mike Sullivan shuffled them again. Actually, it was more like putting their tender heart in a blender.
No, the changes did not work, and the additional changes were drastic as Lars Eller moved from his customary third-line center position to Malkin’s wing, while Smith fell to the third line with new center Jeff Carter.
Sullivan might well have used a Yahtzee cup to make the lines. It couldn’t go worse than the first 25 minutes.
In the third period, Sullivan used Crosby and Malkin with Guentzel. Not even the overloaded top line could find a goal.
The Penguins took a pass in the first period. Actually, it was extreme overpassing that limited the Penguins to just four shots in the first 20 minutes. The Penguins had the puck in the offensive zone but didn’t have a shot for 17:29.
While the Penguins treated shots like a dirty contagion, Tampa scored the lone goal in the first period and did so on the power play.
Anthony Cirelli (6) slipped between three Penguins penaltykillers in the slot and neatly guided defenseman Victor Hedman’s hard pass into the net.
Tampa Bay scored thrice more in the second period, though only two counted.
And just for a little slice of irony from the hockey gods, Tampa Bay scored another power-play goal in the middle of the second when Nikita Kucherov blasted a one-timer from the right circle.
Late in the second, the Penguins found just a little bit of momentum but gave up the death knell when three Penguins defenders allowed Tanner Jeannot to skate past them for an easy rebound putback against a helpless Tristan Jarry.
The Penguins made a point to shoot the puck in the third period, especially the remanufactured fourth line with Carter, Alex Nylander and Jansen Harkins. However, no goals were found, nor were any high-danger scoring chances.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Penguins had just two HDSCs in the first 40 minutes and two more in the first 10 minutes of the third period.
Tristan Jarry stopped 24 of 27 shots. Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 of 25 shots. The Penguins are in Florida Friday. (Official scorers corrected the shot totals after the original story was published).
Update: Rust is being evaluated for an upper-body injury.