The opening battle of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal match-up is now in the books, and it's not a story that most Tampa Bay Lightning ans want to read: The Pittsburgh Penguins shut out the Lightning, 3-0.
It's not that this game was without effort from the Lightning, nor that it was without controversy ans referees were selective in what they penalized and who they penalized and what they ignored (which is the greatest crime of a playoff matchup - call a game even or don't call it at all).
The Lightning were penalized twice as often as the Penguins. And while one of those call's were obviously the right one to make (hello, Ryan Malone), there were others that were just too questionable to be brushed aside.
Especially the non-calls on the Penguins. The most glaring of which was a high stick to the face of Martin St. Louis that resulted in Marty losing his two front teeth:
Erik Erlendsson reported via Twitter post-game that Marty had a double root-canal post-game and will play in game two on Friday.
Complaining about officiating does no justice to praise of Pittsburgh netminder Marc-Andre Fleury and his 32-save effort in the crease for the Penguins. Guy Boucher made sure to emphasize Fleury's effort in post-game comments:
"I just saw the clips on the replays, and I still can't believe he made some of those saves,'' Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of Fleury. "He's done that in the past and he's certainly going to be tough to beat.''
Complaining about the refs also doesn't properly summarize the truth that, after a rapid two-goals by the Penguins in the third period, separated by a mere 18 seconds, the wheels collectively had fallen off for the Lightning.
There are a collection of remarks by Lightning writers the web over about this game. We'll start with Jon Jordan over at Kukla's Korner:
From the Lightning’s perspective, they have to look at it as just one game. They can be disappointed (as well they should) and lament missed opportunities (of which, they had many) but game one is over and done with and they’ll do what they’ve done all year, win or lose, in wiping it clean off the slate and starting anew.
"It's just one game" is the repeated motif out there, and no other Tampa Bay sports writers would know this fact better than veteran columnist Gary Shelton of the St. Pete Times, who puts things into further perspective:
On the other hand, the first playoff series the Lightning ever won — against Washington back in 2003 — came after it lost the first two games of the series. And the most important series the Lightning has ever won — against Calgary in the 2004 Stanley Cup final — came after an opening-game loss.
It was a first effort in what will likely be a long series, and it was nothing to be embarrassed about. But it is a game that shouldn't sit well for the club and should be taken as a lesson moving forward. The lesson being you can't trust anyone but yourselves.
Game #2 is Friday at 7 PM EDT. We'll be live on the Raw Charge game thread at 6 PM.