Pittsburgh owns the Lightning

By on May 19, 2016


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This was game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals in the NHL. The Bolts won one game 1 and lost game 2 in Pittsburgh. Prior to dropping game 2, the Bolts had won all four match-ups (regular season and the playoffs) against Pittsburgh.  Back home in Tampa the Lightning have an advantage and an infectious crowd that loves to make noise.

Just nine minutes into the first period the Lightning had 7 shots on goal and the Penguins had 4. Vasilevskiy just came up with a huge save. And another, and another.  Little did I know, at this time, that the shots were just going to keep coming at a rapid pace.

It’s a fast game, a lot of passing by both teams, and some excellent scoring chances for the Lightning.

The first penalty of the game was awarded to #72 Hornquist for slashing and it was time to see what the Bolts can do on the man advantage. The Lightning’s first power play  was absolutely anemic. They barely got the puck across the blue line and quickly turned it over to give the Penguins a shorthanded chance at a goal.   The power play was too fancy, they just need to get the puck across the line and shoot.   Vasilevskiy held strong, and blocked or snagged every shot that came his way in the first period.

At the end of the first, the score was 0-0, the shot count was Bolts 12, Penguins 10.

The second period continued with the speed skating by both teams, but the Lightning were turning the puck over a little excessively. Thank goodness for the fortitude of Vasilevskiy, he was keeping them in the game. With 13 minutes gone, the Penguins had pounded him with 11 more shots. One being a breakaway by no other than Phil Kessel, a very dangerous sniper. Sidney Crosby was also able to get a nice back hand shot off right in front of Vasy, but he stood strong.

Through two periods, the Penguins were able to hold off the hot scoring line of Kucherov, Johnson and Killorn. At the 15 minute mark in the second, the Penguins were buzzing. They looked like they were on a two minute power play, they had now out shot the Lightning 25 -16.   At even strength the Lightning looked handcuffed, everyone except for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was stealing the show and making some beautiful saves.

The Penguins just dominated the ice in the second period, managing to get off 19 more shots on goal, to bring the grand total after two periods to 29.   Just as I was finishing my sentence, the Lightning turned the puck over, and #81 Kessel fed the puck to #62 Hagelin to score the first goal of the game and his fifth of the playoffs. The score was 1-0 Pittsburgh, and #88 Andrei Vasilevskiy had faced 31 shots, and blocked 30. The Lightning were going to have to play some defense and get some shots on goal, if they were to win this game.

At the end of two periods, I already choose Andrei Vasilevskiy the first star of the game. Just too many give aways by the Lightning in this game.

During intermission, it occurred to me that I didn’t like the lines, the way Cooper has them tonight. Then, at the start of the third period, Killorn, Callahan and Fillpula are back together on a line, and Palat is playing with Kucherov and Johnson. I had high hopes that this would be a difference maker in the third period, and help them create some offense.

Well the Lightning were plagued with turnover after turnover, and #81 Phil Kessel scored the second goal of the game for Pittsburgh. Just as the crowd became silent, Tyler Johnson flew down the ice and shot one past Murray to score the first goal of the game for the Lightning, his fifth goal of the playoffs. The assist from Kucherov, and Palat. The triplet line was back together. “Johnny Be Good” was heard throughout the Amalie Arena, what we affectionately call the “Oil Can.”

At 9:53 in the third, the Lightning were already killing off a penalty by Palat, when Carle got called for elbowing. This would give the Penguins a two man advantage for at least a minute of the game.   At 9:10 the Penguins were able to capitalize on the two man advantage and rifle one past Valilevskiy. It was there 42nd shot on goal, of which Vasy was able to stop 39. This would give the Penguins a two goal lead, and require the Lightning to answer back immediately with a second goal.

 At this point in the game the Penguins almost had a 20 shot count lead on the Lightning at 42 to 23. That is a tremendous advantage, when you can out shoot your opponent by 20 in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby had to make it hurt a little more when he scored the third goal of the game, with assist from Malkin and Schultz. Post game Sidney was asked the question, “Do you think that game four will be easier for you guys?”  He humbly said, “No, it’s just one game, they are a good team.”  He also said that it was nice to finally get a goal.

And that being said, the Penguins would make their 45th shot their fourth goal of the game. WOW, 45 shots that’s just incredible. #14 Kunitz scored the goal unassisted at 13:12. The last 6 minutes of this game were going to be brutal. The Lightning looked tired, the Penguins were just dominating, like an unrelenting force.

There was just no stopping the Penguins, they just kept coming like the energizer bunny.  Tampa managed to notch another goal, but did not prevail in the end.  The game ended regulation time with the score being 4-2 Pittsburgh.  The series is is now 2-1 Pittsburgh and the Penguins had 48 shots on goal,  in regulation, in a Conference final, probably unprecedented.

The Bolts and the Penguins take the ice for game 4 on Friday at 8:00 pm right here at 401 Channelside Drive.


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