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Skid continues as Penguins topple Lightning 4-3

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The Lightning blow a two-goal lead and yield three power play goals, falling to Pittsburgh 4-3.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay’s Brian Boyle gets a shot off while being defended by Justin Schultz of the Penguins in the Lightning’s 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday night.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Tampa Saturday night.

It’s tempting to look at the final score and even the fact that they held a two-goal lead over the defending Stanley Cup Champions and think that the Lightning are thisclose to snapping out of this now-extended malaise. Especially in comparison with the all-out debacle that was Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. However, to do so would be to ignore the persistent turnovers, misfiring offense and inconsistent effort all on display in this game, all of which have been factors that have put them in this position of having lost seven of their last nine games (one in overtime).

“I liked a lot of the things we did. Again, when it kind of got down to it at the end though, we stopped shooting pucks. We stopped attacking the net, and the couple of flurries we had we were really attacking the net. We were going for it. Then it felt, again, we were trying to make the extra pass, trying to place the puck into the net instead of just getting it to the net and driving when we had guys doing that. That’s the tough part when at the end there we had things going, we just didn’t shoot enough. But Pittsburgh also puts you in those positions, so you’ve got to fight through that kind of stuff. Ultimately we had a 3-1 lead, and we blew it at home and those are tough to swallow because that doesn’t happen to us too often.” - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

Sidney Crosby opened the scoring at 12:03 of the first, sprawling to the ice he managed to get enough of his stick on the puck to swat it past Andrei Vasilevskiy. Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang assisted on what would be the Penguins only even-strength tally on the night. The play was challenged by the Tampa Bay bench for possible Goalie Interference but was correctly upheld.

At 16:07, Evgeni Malkin was whistled for a four-minute double minor for High Sticking, slashing Jonathan Drouin’s cheek. In a perfect illustration of hockey toughness and poetic justice, Drouin went to the bench to bleed a little, came back on the ice to tie the game on the ensuing power play at 17:57, then went back to the bench to bleed some more. Anton Stralman and Nikita Kucherov picked up assists on the play.

Pittsburgh definitely outplayed Tampa Bay, but the period ended with the teams tied at one.

The Lightning took the lead at 3:38 of the second, on a two-on-one breakaway that saw Valtteri Filppula score on an assist from Nikita Nesterov.

They actually extended that lead at 10:19 when Drouin notched his second goal of the night, this time getting help from Jason Garrison.

Turnovers, turnovers and more turnovers by the Lightning but Vasilevskiy was doing a good job of keeping the puck out of the net until 17:25, when Malkin cashed in on the power play with helpers coming from Phil Kessel and Letang.

Still, the Lightning were up 3-2 going into the final period.

The Penguins, who came in to tonight’s game on a four-game winning streak, in spite of what had been a mediocre power play, ranked 15th in the league and just one for its last 30. They notched their second goal of the night with the man advantage at 5:08 of the third, with Crosby converting on assists from Kessel and Letang.

They would take the lead and eventual game winner once again on the power play at 8:36, this time getting another goal from Malkin who was assisted by Trevor Daley and Kessel.

The Lightning had one final opportunity to tie the game with 15.3 seconds remaining, with Vasilevskiy pulled for the extra attacker and with Pittsburgh down a man because of a Tripping call against Patric Hornqvist and the face-off in the Penguins end. Tyler Johnson was unable to win the draw and the Penguins ran off the remaining seconds.

The Lightning will take to the road again now, beginning with a visit to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.