Tampa Bay Lightning Search For Structure As They Battle Penguins

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Lightning caught a lucky break on Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, but today won’t be as easy as the Bolts take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had finally seemed to find the consistency they had been working all season to attain, and then in the matter of three games everything seemed to crumble at their feet. On Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to come back from losing a three-goal lead to eventually defeat the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout, but the Lightning has a new challenge in front of them today.

Today, the Tampa Bay Lightning open up the doors to the Amalie Arena in order to take on captain Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. As most of the fans in the Bolts Nation are well aware, this is not the first time these two teams have met this season in the center of the ice. Today’s encounter will be the third and final time the Lightning and the Penguins will meet during the regular season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has had some pretty good luck against the Penguins this season. In their first meeting, which took place back on January 15th, the Lightning were able to edge out the Penguins 5-4 in overtime. In their second encounter, which took place on February 5th, the Lightning dominated the Penguins with a 6-3 victory at the Amalie Arena.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning may have come up with a win on Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, the Lightning’s structure on the ice left plenty to be desired. There was a series of defensive miscues that led to the Lightning dropping a three-goal lead and almost the game. Another part of their game that needs some serious attention is their special teams.

On the other side of the ice, the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming into today’s encounter on a high note. On Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins dismantled the Detroit Red Wings 6-3 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. There were two players who came up particularly big against the Red Wings on Thursday night. The first of those players is Penguins right wing Phil Kessel.

Kessel scored two goals on Thursday night; one in the early part of the second period and the second early in the third period. So far this season, Kessel has scored 18 goals and 19 assists for a total of 37 points. Kessel is currently in fourth place on the team in regards to overall points.

The other player the Tampa Bay Lightning should be mindful of is one of the usual suspects; Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. On Thursday night against the Red Wings, Crosby scored an assist on Kessel’s goal in the second period. In the third, Crosby would bring home a goal of his own on the empty net. Crosby has racked up 25 goals and 30 assists so far this season for a grand total of 55 points putting him in first place on the team in goals and overall points.

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On the other side of the ice, it is Nikita Kucherov who is leading the way for the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the 57 games he’s played this season, Kucherov has scored 24 goals and 25 assists for a total of 49 points. On the heels of Kucherov is Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Stamkos has brought home 23 goals and 20 assists for a total of 43 points.

Both Stamkos and Kucherov would come up big on Thursday night against the Jets. Stamkos would score the third goal in the first period which would light the spark in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s offense. Then, it would be Nikita Kucherov who would bail the Lightning out in the final five minutes of the third period allowing the game to head to overtime. In the end, it was Steven Stamkos who would seal the deal for the Bolts in a shootout.

According to the Lightning’s official website, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be coming into today’s encounter without one of their key offensive pieces. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who has been out since February 2nd with a lower body injury, has been ruled out tonight against the Bolts. As you can imagine, whoever takes his spot on the line with Sidney Crosby will have pretty big shoes to fill.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has plenty of work to do today if they want to kick off their back-to-back weekend series on a high note. Much like the fans here in the Bolts Nation, the team is frustrated with the way things have been playing out as of late and you can bet they will do whatever it takes to get the job done today.

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What do you think the Tampa Bay Lightning will need to do in order to bring home the two points today in Pittsburgh? Which player do you think the Lightning will need to neutralize today? Let us know what you think in the comments below.