At this point the Tampa Bay Lightning are a team hanging on to hope that comes from mathematicians coming up with scenarios that would squeak them into the playoffs this year while facing a lot of work to do in a likely long off-season. Their opponents tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins are a team that's currently mowing through the NHL and focused solely on winning the Stanley Cup this season.
"That's a really good hockey team. That's a team that has won 15 games in a row in the top league in the world." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
In spite of the obvious and inherent mismatch, the Lightning were actually able to hang with the Penguins for most of the first two periods.
Pittsburgh jumped out in front at 4:07 of the first when Jussi Jokinen scored on assists from Brenden Morrow and Pascal Dupuis
Just under two minutes later, they doubled the margin to 2-0 when Dupuis scored a power play goal at 6:02. Tyler Kennedy Matt Niskanen chipped in with assists.
At the 16:00 mark, the Lightning got on the board and cut the lead in half when Teddy Purcell scored a power play goal on assists from Steven Stamkos and Sami Salo.
The period ended with Pittsburgh up 2-1.
Special teams ruled the second period as the Penguins cashed in on the power play at 1:48 with Chris Kunitz scored with help from Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang.
At 5:46, the Lightning returned the favor, scoring on a power play of their own with Brett Connolly getting assistance from Richard Panik and Alex Killorn.
That would be as close as the Lightning would get as the period ended with Pittsburgh holding a 3-2 lead.
Special teams would get more time in the spotlight almost by default in the third as the Lightning racked up a whopping 31 penalty minutes while the Penguins would accumulate 15 of their own, The Lightning simply didn't have an answer to the Pittsburgh attack.
Pittsburgh doubled their lead when Evgeni Malkin scored unassisted during a 4-on-4 at 1:24.
At 4:45, Jokinen would score an even-strength goal, cashing in on assists by Douglas Murray and Dupuis.
They ran the score to 6-2 at 16:40 when Tanner Glass scored during a 5-on-3 power play, with Jokinen and Iginla offering help.
Purcell would tap in a loose puck at the 19:42 mark for a power play goal to end the scoring on the night.Martin St. Louis and Matt Carle were credited with assists.
The Penguins outshot the Lightning 41-19 on the night.
"We obviously didn't generate a lot of shots. We made some mistakes that ended up with the puck in the back of our net. They obviously have a good team over there and you don't want to give them too much time and space. Ultimately it's a loss. Now it's time to regroup and get ready for the road trip." - Lightning forward Ryan Malone
The Bolts will now head out on a season-long four-game road trip and will be in action again on Saturday when they visit the Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals.
- Stat of the night? Unfortunately, it came in a losing effort but the Lightning tied a season high with three power play goals, converting on three of four opportunities.
- Tonight was the third and final match-up of the season between the Penguins and Lightning and the only one at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
- The Lightning have a six-game losing streak to Pittsburgh. The last time they beat the Penguins was on November 17, 2011 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
- The combined rosters of the Penguins and Lightning feature six players that were selected either first or second overall in the NHL Entry Draft (Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Vincent Lecavalier, Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury)
- Marty St. Louis is one of only two NHL players (the other being Chris Kunitz) to not have consecutive pointless games this season.
- The Lightning honored Kim Kuruzovich as the 36th Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Kuruzovich, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the LiFT Academy (www.liftacademy.org) and Best Buddies (www.bestbuddies.com). Kuruzovich was a special education teacher for 19 years and during that time she was so passionate about helping others that she decided to take it one step further, creating an entire school dedicated to children with disabilities. Kuruzovich, along with other teachers, have forfeited a salary to make sure that the best interest for the children they look after is always at the highest standards. A mother of two, Kuruzovich has a child of her own that has developmental delays and special needs. She started LiFT Academy, along with two other mothers, to serve special need children from grades K-12. Kuruzovich acts as principal, curriculum specialist, teacher and more. LiFT Academy originally had a commitment of nine students but continues to attract more and more students each year and plans to open a post-secondary education program in the near future.