When the Lightning beat the Winnipeg Jets, 6-5, in a shootout on Thursday, there was the sense that, despite the win, they could have played much better. During that game, the Bolts gave up a 4-1 lead in the third period to force the game into extra time, overshadowing the fact that they had stopped a brief losing streak.
Well, the Bolts responded in a big way with a season sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the first time since the 2006-07 season that this had been done, and it was the first regular season win for the Lightning against the Penguins in Pittsburgh since their move to the CONSOL Energy Center. Their last regular season road win against Pittsburgh was Mar. 31, 2010.
The teams exchanged chances throughout the first period until a shot by Pittsburgh forward Kevin Porter rang off the post. Only 13 seconds later, at 9:08, the Lightning rushed it down the ice and Anton Stralman fired a shot toward the net. It rang off the post and behind Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who played in relief of an ill Marc-Andre Fleury. The assists went to Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Marchessault.
The Bolts continued to push forward, adding yet another goal by Steven Stamkos at 11:20 of first period. This goal was probably the highlight of the afternoon, as Stamkos notched his 300th NHL goal, becoming only the third player in Lightning history to do so, along with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
The play began with Alex Killorn flicking a wrist shot from the point. Zatkoff made the initial save, but Stamkos was set up near the crease to flip a backhand shot into the back of the net.
After this second goal, the Pittsburgh Penguins started to push back a little bit, carrying momentum for the rest of the period. You could sense the frustration on the part of the Penguins, who started to take some penalties and try to draw penalties of their own. Even captain Sidney Crosby took a few roughing calls throughout the game in an effort to spark his team. The Penguins went on to outshoot the Lightning by a wide margin in the period.
Another goal of note occurred at 3:14 of the second period when defenseman Matt Carle got his first goal of the season. It has to be a bit of relief for the veteran blue liner, who has spent time in and out of the lineup this season and has become a point of contention for Lightning fans dating back quite a while. The goal, a shot from the point that looked to have changed directions in traffic, went unassisted and made the score 3-0.
Then, with the Lightning on a power play after Trevor Daley and Cedric Paquette went at it, the Penguins finally responded. The Penguins' first goal of the game, a shorthanded one, was scored at 5:35 by Tom Kuhnhackl. The goal, coming off a 2-on-0 breakaway in with Victor Hedman was caught flat-footed, was Kuhnhackl's first NHL goal and closed the gap to 3-1.
At this point, there was concern that the Lightning may be trending toward their play of the last several games, but Tyler Johnson silenced these worries when he scored off a beautiful tic-tac-toe play assisted by Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Marchessault.
Attempting to mount a late comeback, Penguins forward Scott Wilson buried a rebound on which Ben Bishop had little chance to make a save. The assists at 16:01 went to Bryan Rust and Kris Letang.
The Penguins pulled goaltender Jeff Zatkoff with about two minutes left, but would be unable to score. Ben Bishop was fantastic this afternoon, stopping 37 of 39 shots in a game that the Bolts absolutely needed to win. It was one of the team's better games during the month of February and could very well signal a turnaround for the club. It will definitely be a challenge, however, as six out of the next eight games will be played on the road.
The Lightning will travel to Raleigh, N.C., to play again tomorrow evening against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m.
- Steven Stamkos played in his 550th NHL game.
- It was the first time since December 13, 2014 that Matt Carle has had a goal and an assist in a game.
- Cedric Paquette blocked a shot off the foot in the dying minutes of the game and was helped to the locker room by Lightning medical staff.
- It was the first time the Lightning had beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season at Consol Energy Center.
- The Lightning and Penguins both failed to score on the man advantage, including a 5-on-3 PP for Pittsburgh in the second period. The Lightning were 0/5 while the Pens went 0/4.
- Lightning founder and NHL legend Phil Esposito celebrated his 74th birthday today.