Don’t Call it a Comeback, Series Tied at 2

By on May 21, 2016

The puck dropped Friday night with the Penguins leading the Eastern Conference Finals series 2-1 and Tampa needed to play like the team everyone knows they are capable of to pull out a win and tie the series. Going back to the “Burgh” being down 3-1 did not sound like a good option.

The Tampa party started early at the 0:27 second mark of the game when Victor Hedman ripped a slap shot from the blue line and Ryan Callahan was there to tip it in, what a great start to a must win game. The Callahan, Filppula, Brown line was buzzing every time they stepped on the ice.

The Lightning were looking like a team that was determined to win.

Wow, then a scoring contribution from Andrej Sustr at 14:28 in the first. The assists from Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn. It was Sustr’s first goal of the playoffs and the Tesla Coils were already getting a workout before the end of the first period.  A beautiful set-up for Sustr who did not waste it.

Towards the end of the first period,  at precisely 18:00, JT Brown and Chirs Kunitz got in a pretty good scrum and both got called for coincidental roughing minors and would exit for the dressing room getting an extra two minute break.

To this point in the game, the Lightning have definitely been more responsible with the puck so far this game.

The second period was underway and the Lightning were still looking strong, getting some great scoring opportunities, definitely putting the pressure on the Penguins. At 2:11 Nikita Kucherov got a two minute minor for boarding, he did kind of crunch Pens defenseman Ian Cole into the glass. The Lightning’s penalty kill would get the test for the first time in this contest and successful it was. At 5:31 in the second, the shots on goal were Lightning 21, Penguins 14. The Lightning at this time in the game were doing almost everything right to win this one.

Then at 5:59,  Jonathan Drouin got a two minute minor for holding. The Lightning were proving in this game why their penalty kill was so good in the post season. They were looking good, their passes were crisper and spot on. This time they had the Penguins on their heels. The Lightning were playing their game, and Vasilevskiy was giving them every opportunity to win this game.

Ryan Callahan put a big hit on Trevor Daley and he was unable to get back on his feet. It looked like Daley hurt his right leg and he crawled over in front of the goalie while the puck was still in play. I don’t think I have ever seen that before in all my years of watching hockey. He had to be helped off the ice and went to the locker room.

This game was just getting heated up when Brian Boyle and Kris Letang tried to square off but the officials would not have it. They should have just let them go. It resulted in Kris Letang getting two minutes for cross checking Jonathan Drouin, and two minutes for roughing. Brian Boyle got two minutes for roughing, all this resulted a power play chance for the Letang minor. Matt Cullen from Pittsburgh also got a two minute minor for holding.

Brian Boyle was playing like a man of fire, or a hockey player on fire. During the Bolts power play, Victor Hedman got rocked pretty hard and had to leave the ice. That gave the Penguins a short handed chance at a goal, but Vasilevskiy said NO. Then at 14:38 Jonathan Drouin gave the fans something to celebrate, he wristed in the third goal of the game, his fourth of the playoffs. The crowd went crazy! The assist to Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman. I think at this point in the game, Murray was feeling a little uncomfortable.

Just as the crowd noise dissipated Alex Killorn got a two minute minor for hooking. Another chance for this penalty kill unit to earn some stripes.

Looking good so far in this game, a penalty kill then another goal by Tyler Johnson, the assist to Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn. The Lightning were leading 4-0 at the end of the second period. Dominating…

Valterri Filppula is leading the ice team for the forwards at the end of the second period, 15:51, almost 16 minutes in two periods. He was given the task of shutting down Crosby, and he is prevailing through the first two periods, very impressive game by Filppula, possibly the best game he’s played this year.

Third period opened up with a goalie change for Pittsburgh, Murray was relieved by Marc-Andre Fluery. Fluery is no stranger to playoff games and fast moving pucks.

The Lightning were playing more conservative offensively in the third period, and a defensive breakdown allowed Pittsburgh to score a goal early on at 1:18 the dangerous Phil Kessel was able to get his eighth goal of the post season. The score now 4-1 Tampa.

The Penguins were not going to give up without a fight, they have been known to comeback and win a game like this. Just as I had that thought Evgeni Malkin came racing down the ice, and Slater Keokkeok got tripped and the ice opened up and he scored the second goal of the game for Pittsburgh. That’s a goal that Vasilevskiy is going to want back. He looked as if he was startled or caught off guard, not something you can do as a goal tender in the NHL.

And another goal by Pittsburgh, on the power play and it was Chris Kunitz banging in a rebound off a Conor Sheary for a  power play goal at 13:08. The score quickly came a one goal game and Pittsburgh was playing with a renewed energy. The Lightning were going to need to not make mistakes and be fast to the puck. No more turnovers, if you turn the puck over to this Pittsburgh team they were going to make you pay.

Excitement closed out the game with the Lightning hanging on to a 4-3 win overcoming a three goal third by the black and gold clad Penguins.

Game 5 Sunday in the Burgh and then a guaranteed return to Amaile Oil Can Arena on Tuesday for game 6 where someone will come in leading 3-2.

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