Welcome back to a second installment of my real-time commentary, where tonight I’ll be updating regularly as the Tampa Bay Lightning play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins. I hope you’ll check back often, and leave your own comments on tonight’s game. Updates will appear in descending order, so please scroll down for the latest.
4:30 p.m.: The Tampa Bay Lightning are still on a high after Thursday night’s 7-2 dismantling of the Florida Panthers. Tonight’s game, however, promises to be a much tougher challenge for the young Lightning squad. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in town, and the Penguins have had the Lightning’s number for quite some time.
“In the 15 games I coached last year,” Coach Jon Cooper told the media earlier this afternoon, “the one team that completely outclassed us was the one we’re playing tonight. They beat us 6-3, but it could have been 16-3.”
The Penguins are coming into the Tampa Bay Times Forum fresh off a loss last night to the Florida Panthers. The Penguins dressed Jeff Zatkoff for the game, which means they saved Marc Andre Fleury for tonight’s game against the Lightning.
Fleury is off to a red-hot start this year, posting a 3-0 record with only three goals against to date. He has a .963 save percentage.
In net for the Lightning will be Anders Lindback. Ben Bishop is currently listed as day-to-day with a minor lower body injury. Cedrick Desjardins has been called up from the Syracuse Crunch and is expected to back Lindback up in tonight’s game.
Of course, it’s hard to talk about the Penguins without talking about the world’s best player, Sidney Crosby. Crosby was held off the score sheet against the Panthers last night, but has five points in his first four games of the season.
Second in command for the Penguins is Evgeni Malkin. Malkin, also a former Hart trophy winner, has three points to date, but over the past two years he’s had a habit of putting the Lightning on the bad side of highlight reels.
Leading the Lightning into action tonight will be none other than Steven Stamkos. Stamkos had somewhat of a slow start to the year, but he exploded on Thursday night against the Panthers, scoring three goals, adding a helper, and playing a phenomenal 200-foot game. He comes into tonight with six points in four games.
Remember to check below for regular updates. The puck drops shortly after 7:00 EST.
7:03 p.m.: Getting ready for puck-drop. Both teams coming in at 3-1. Pittsburgh won their first three games and then dropped last night’s contest against the Panthers. The Lightning lost their first game of the season against the Boston Bruins and have since won three straight. Reported starters for the Penguins: Glass/Malkin/Adams/Martin/Orpik. For the Lightning: Malone/Stamkos/St. Louis/Hedman/Carle. Fleury vs. Lindback in the battle of goaltenders. On paper, that goaltending matchup doesn’t bode well.
7:10 p.m.: Immediately after the puck-drop, Malone and Adams drop the gloves. Great tilt, with Adams getting the best of it at first and Malone getting the better of it at the end. Clearly a staged fight, which are obviously pretty polarizing. Malone might be trying to make a bit of a statement — he had a good game against the Panthers, but hadn’t played well prior to that.
7:12 p.m.: Right after we get going, the Penguins haul down Steven Stamkos, taking away a scoring chance. Not even 30 seconds into the game and the Lightning have a powerplay. Kobesew in the box for 2:00.
7:13 p.m.: Interesting note: Richard Panik on the PP, probably taking Malone’s place.
7:15 p.m.: Powerplay over. Good effort by the Lightning, particular Filppula’s unit, but no goals.
7:18 p.m.: Interesting note: The Lightning appear to be matching the Crosby line with the Tyler Johnson line. ADD: Next shift, the Bolts go with Stamkos vs. Crosby. And Lindback makes a big save on Crosby.
7:20 p.m.: Lightning going right back to the powerplay. Tyler Johnson gets hooked down by Evgeni Malkin. Last powerplay looked good — let’s see if we can finish this time.
7:24 p.m.: Penguins kill off another one. The Lightning 2nd unit, featuring Filppula, is looking a fair bit better than the first unit with Stamkos/St. Louis. 12:15 remaining in the 1st period.
7:30 p.m.: Penguins take another penalty, this one for holding, after the Lightning have a dangerous scramble in front of the Pens’ net. Richard Panik has his legs working tonight. Paul Martin for holding. 9:49 remaining.
7:35 p.m.: Pens kill another one. Might be dangerous for the Lightning. If NHL patterns hold true, they’ll get the next penalty.
7:37 p.m.: Richard Panik sends a pass to Alex Killorn at the top of the slot and Killorn fires the shot, which is deflected in front by Val Filppula and Filppula SCORES! Filppula’s been the best player for the Lightning in the early going of the game, and now he gets credited with his team-leading 4th goal of the year. Filppula from Killorn and Panik. 1-0 Lightning.
7:47 p.m.: Radko Gudas takes a roughing penalty in front of the Lightning net. Looks a little soft, but you had to see it coming. The pattern holds true. 3:22 remaining.
7:49 p.m.: Some scary moments in front, but Lindback fights them all off. He doesn’t look as controlled as Bishop in front, but he’s getting the job done. 0:04 remains in the penalty, 1:20 and change in the period.
FIRST PERIOD END, 7:52 p.m.: The Lightning are heading to the locker room with a 1-0 lead over the Penguins. The Penguins had a few chances near the end of the period, but Anders Lindback was equal to the challenge and made some huge saves.
It was a confidence-boosting period for the Lightning. Not only did they keep up with the Penguins, but for certain stretches they looked like the better team. Val Filppula has been the best Lightning player thus far, and his second line, with Panik and Killorn, has been the best Lightning line.
The period ends with the Penguins with the shot advantage 9-8. Perhaps the Penguins took some time to get their legs under them, having spent a large chunk of the period killing penalties. The Lightning have a slight edge in faceoffs, 15-12. On the Stamkos faceoff front, Stammer is currently even at 4-4. Val Filppula is 6-3. Matt Carle led the Bolts in icetime with 7:33.
Scoring: Filppula (Killorn, Panik) 13:35
Stay tuned for the 2nd.
8:10 p.m.: 2nd period puck-drop.
8:13 p.m.: Good chance for Andrej Sustr, but Fleury makes the save. After the play, Eric Brewer takes a 2:00 penalty for roughing. …And before they manage to drop the puck, somehow Ryan Malone takes a 10 minute misconduct penalty. 18:26 remaining.
8:16 p.m.: Jussi Jokinen takes a shot in the slot and Sidney Crosby SCORES on the rebound, right in front. 1-1.
8:19 p.m.: Great rush by the Lightning, with Stamkos, St. Louis, and Hedman showing off some tic-tac-toe passing and Stamkos SCORES on the wrist-shot! Great goal. Might be evidence this line is better without Malone. Stamkos from St. Louis and Hedman.
8:25 p.m.: Pittsburgh throws the puck at the net and the puck bounces off at least two players and the Penguins SCORE! Looks like it’s being credited to Brooks Orpik. 2-2. Orpik from Kunitz and Dupuis.
8:29 p.m.: Anders Lindback uses his length to break up a 2-on-1, but immediately after the Lightning are served with another penalty. This time it’s Richard Panik for delay of game. Panik knocked the net off the moorings to stop the play. 9:57 remaining in the 2nd.
8:34 p.m.: Very solid penalty kill for the Lightning.
8:37 p.m.: Penguins take a penalty for interference. Honestly, it looked like the refs were looking for one to give them. Not much interference there. Olli Maatta, 2:00 for interference.
8:40 p.m.: Lightning work the puck around nicely on the powerplay, Malone with a couple of chances, finally the puck winds up at the point, Salo fires, and the Lightning SCORE! Hard to say who’ll get credit. Plenty of traffic, but it looks like Teddy Purcell. ADD: Indeed it is Purcell, from Salo and St. Louis. 3-2 Lightning.
8:46 p.m.: Penguins with a ton of pressure in the Lightning zone. The Lightning are forced to ice the puck with under 20 seconds left. The Lightning decide to burn a time out. Their skaters were dead tired at the end of that shift.
8:48 p.m.: The Lightning burn out the rest of the clock and the 2nd period comes to an end.
SECOND PERIOD END, 8:48 p.m.: It was another good period for the Lightning. The Penguins struck twice, but the Lightning answered back shortly after both goals and head into the lockerroom with a 3-2 lead heading into the 3rd period. The Bolts got goals in that period from Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell, while the Penguins got theirs from Sidney Crosby and Brooks Orpik.
The physical play began to pick up a bit toward the end of the period. Despite the fight at the beginning of the game, there hasn’t been much nastiness on the ice tonight. Radko Gudas, the Bolts’ top body-check man, is credited with just one hit tonight.
Val Filppula has racked up over 17 minutes of icetime already in the game. Pierre-Cedric Labrie has played only about 3 minutes, which is possibly due to the skating-oriented nature of the game to this point.
Shots were identical in the second period to what they were in the first: 9-8, giving the Penguins an 18-16 advantage through two periods. The Lightning have a small lead in faceoffs, 25-21, and interestingly, are credited with only 2 giveaways compared to the Penguins 11.
Crosby PIT (Jokinen, Kunitz) PP 2:14; Stamkos TB (St. Louis, Hedman) 5:11; Orpik PIT (Dupuis, Kunitz) 7:01; Purcell (Salo, St. Louis) PP 15:42
Stay tuned for the 3rd.
9:07 p.m.: 3rd period puck-drop. Immediately after Sidney Crosby SCORES his second of the night on a beautiful deflection. We’ll see how the Bolts respond. Goals like this can be terrible for momentum.
9:09 p.m.: Stamkos hits the post. Close.
9:22 p.m.: Alex Killorn takes a 2:00 penalty trying to stop Malkin from getting to the net. Seconds before that Victor Hedman made a no-look pass to absolutely no one, leading to the rush.
9:24 p.m.: As the Lightning penalty expires, the puck squirts out to Sidney Crosby, and Crosby SCORES! That’s the hat trick for Sid. 4-3 Pens.
9:34 p.m.: The Penguins have really taken control of this game. With 5:57 remaining in the 3rd, they lead 4-3, but they’ve got an edge in 3rd period shots, 7-1.
9:37 p.m.: Chris Kunitz called for hooking. Big 2:00 for the Bolts.
9:40 p.m.: After a lackluster 1:30, punctuated by Stamkos breaking a skate-blade, Alex Killorn gets the puck in front and SCORES! Mr. Clutch (Killutch!)! Killorn from Panik and Johnson. 4-4 game.
9:44 p.m.: Richard Panik takes a tripping penalty with under 1:00 remaining. At first I thought the refs were just getting involved, but a look at the replay shows a blatant, intentional trip. Terrible penalty for Panik just as the Lightning were buzzing in the Penguins zone and building momentum.
9:47 p.m.: Well that’s a heartbreaker. Matt Niskanen fires a one-timer from the point and SCORES, beating Lindback cleanly. 18 seconds remaining.
9:48 p.m.: Game ends. Pittsburgh 5, Lightning 4. Not a great showing for Lindback, but Richard Panik is going to be hanging his head in the locker room.
GAME END, 9:48 p.m.: It’s not easy to digest how tonight’s game slipped away from the Lightning. Anders Lindback, who had played well throughout the night, failed to make some key 3rd period saves that could have at least been enough to get the Lightning a point. The lion’s share of the blame has to be placed squarely on Richard Panik, however, after Panik took a ridiculously unnecessary penalty, behind the play no less, while looking at the referee, leading to a Penguins power play. The Penguins were lethal on the powerplay all night, and were no less lethal on that one.
If there was any doubt about the starting role in Tampa Bay prior to this game, there’s probably no doubt now. Lindback likely played himself out of the position. Panik, meanwhile, with one of the most bone-headed penalties I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been watching hockey for a long time), might have just played his way back to the AHL despite a 2-assist performance. That penalty was inexcusable. It almost certainly cost the Lightning a point. In my opinion, Panik needs to make up for that. He shouldn’t be put on an NHL ice surface until he earns it. And by that I mean: Syracuse.
Still, there are plenty of positives to take out of tonight. The Penguins were a good measuring stick for the Lightning. On one hand, the Lightning proved that in a lot of ways they do measure up to the best teams in the East, but tonight’s game also served as a reality check — there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Victor Hedman had a strong game for the Lightning tonight, and might have been their best player. Valtteri Filppula was great again and wound up with 25:32 in icetime.
The Bolts managed just two shots in the 3rd period, so it’s hard to put all the blame on Panik and Lindback. The Penguins shifted to a higher gear and the Lightning, for most of the period, didn’t have the legs to keep up. It makes the Panik penalty all the more frustrating that it came at the end of a shift where the Lightning were finally building momentum.
Final score tonight: 5-4 Penguins. A heart-breaking loss for the Lightning. A couple of interesting stories moving forward: Does Richard Panik stay in Tampa or will Jon Cooper present him with a ticket to Syracuse? And also, how do the Lightning respond Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings? It’ll be another tough game, and the Bolts will need to collect their heads after a game where, in the third period, they looked way too much like last year’s time.
Third period scoring: Crosby PIT (Scuderi, Niskanen) 00:25; Crosby PIT (Jokinen, Malkin) PP 10:26; Killorn TB (Panik, Johnson) PP 16:58; Niskanen (Malkin, Crosby) PP 19:41