PITTSBURGH — Neither the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning penalty kill qualified as a “special” team Thursday night as the teams combined for six power-play goals including three in 90 seconds by Tampa Bay center Brayden Point. The Penguins could only convert one even strength chance and lost their seventh game in eight tries, and second in a row, 4-3 to Tampa Bay at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins took three penalties within 10 seconds at the end of the first period to give Tampa Bay an extended 5-on-3 power-play, which straddled the end of the first period and beginning of the second. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel earned some alone time with a slash and a trip. Matt Cullen followed with a trip.
Point (10, 11, 12) scored a pair from the circle at the end of the first period. He scored again from the circle to start the second period and one in front just 47 seconds later for a 3-2 Tampa Bay lead.
“It happened so quick, we gave them the game there,” said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
The Penguins played without captain and top-line center Sidney Crosby and talented third line center Derick Brassard, yet showed resiliency. They earned an equalizer goal just a few minutes after Point’s natural hat trick. Patric Hornqvist (7) tied the game with a dirty goal in front.
“I think we’ve got to draw on all of the positives,” said Murray who echoed his teammate’s sentiment, the Penguins were the better team at even strength. “We were the better team five-on-five. Hopefully, we build off of that. Obviously, we know we can’t take that many penalties.”
But the tie was short-lived.
Tampa Bay scored their fourth power-play goal just minutes after Hornqvist tied the game. Yanni Gourde (8) cleanly beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray with a slapshot from the top of the circle.
“We have to stay out of the box. Their power-play is really dangerous and they showed it tonight,” said Patric Hornqvist.
In the first period, the Penguins played a simple game with puck support to beat the Tampa Bay forecheck and gain offensive zone pressure, despite the makeshift lineup. The offensive pressure led to three power-plays and two power-play goals for the Penguins.
Midway through the first period, the Penguins fourth line with Matt Cullen, Zach Aston-Reese and journeyman winger Garrett Wilson pinned Tampa into the offensive zone. On the resulting power play, Patric Hornqvist (6) deflected Phil Kessel’s wrister to give the Penguins much-needed boost.
A few minutes later, the Penguins again converted a power-play chance. With a four-on-three man advantage, Phil Kessel (9) whipped a shot past Tampa Bay goalie Louis Domingue from the hash marks.
The Penguins outshot Tampa Bay 31-26. Murray made 22 saves on 26 shots.