The pause in the NHL season sucks. It should be the playoffs but it isn’t. While we sit around and wait for sports to come back, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Four years ago the Penguins road to being back-to-back champions begun. I’ll have game recaps ready for each game through the 2016 playoffs.
If the Penguins were opportunistic against the Caps, they met their equal in Tampa Bay in this series.
The play was largely carried by the Pens but the Lightning needed just a handful of chances to cruise to a 3-1 win.
About 13 minutes in, it felt like Lady Luck was shining on the Penguins for this run. Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop likely blew out his knee trying to get back into the net. In came Andrei Vasilevskiy and he made 25 saves in a victory for Tampa.
Matt Murray really only gave one up that he would want back, and even then it was a bad luck breakaway that he tracked well but caromed off his leg and into the net.
There really isn’t much the Penguins need to change in game two, just limit Tampa’s chances and keep pounding away.
Here we go.
Penguins vs. Lightning
Game One, Eastern Conference Finals
CONSOL Energy Center
Watch The Full Game
No real reason to change too much, you made it halfway to the goal.
Both teams came out with their hair lit on fire and shot out of a cannon. I guess the prospect of getting to the Cup Final will do that.
Matt Murray, spectacular early.
A great pass met by a better save.
As stated above, with about seven and a half minutes to go in the first, Bishop went down.
We will not be GIFing this, if you want to see it, look it up. It’s gruesome.
Murray’s early brilliance continued late into the period. With the playoff leading goal-scorer bearing down on him, he challenges, cuts the angle down, and denies him any sort of a good look.
Kid’s playing like a 10-year veteran. What a story.
It looked like we’d be deadlocked at 0 to end the first but a goddamn unrealistic pass from Hedman to Killorn gave Tampa the opening strike.
Maatta plays this about as well as you can play a bank pass that looks like it has absolutely no chance of making it to the player’s stick. That is until Killhorn just completely outmuscles him.
Same goes for Murray, tracks him the whole way, shows 5-hole, takes it away and it juuuuuuuuust slips through.
No big thing, bad teams don’t make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Wasn’t going to be easy.
This game could be summed up in its entirety by comparing two moments early in the second period.
Part one: Less than a minute in the Penguins are pressing and about to get a grade-A chance at the net. Rust can’t get past the pokecheck of Vasilevskiy and Tampa holds on to the 1-0 lead.
Part two: Tampa finds themselves on the power play and a slap shot from the point that is largely unscreened bounces off of Murray’s pad right to Palat and he’s got a wide-open net.
That’s simply just being opportunistic. Tampa cashed in, the Penguins didn’t.
From there, Tampa had some life and some legs.
It was another late strike that would widen the lead.
Just a brutal turnover and pinch by Letang on this one. If you’re going to step up there, you need to be 100000% sure and just go. A slight hesitation gives Flippula just enough time to sense he can poke it forward and he does right to Palat for a 3-on-1.
The speed of Palat and Drouin leaves Dumoulin and Murray with no hope.
Pass across, bang.
The Pens would get one back late on the power play. With Tampa’s best defenseman in the box, it was time to strike.
You would think it would have been the unreal puck movement between Geno, Sid, and Phil that scored a goal, but alas.
After a beautiful display of passing, Phil shanks the shot wide but the Pens keep possession. Hornqvist puts a pretty routine shot at the net and it fools Vasilevskiy mainly thanks to Coburn screening him.
The Penguins essentially pressed the whole period but didn’t get a ton of good looks and when they did, Vasilevskiy was right there.
Best chance for the Pens came on a late power play from a spot Phil Kessel rarely misses.
A little slow on the release but man…if that doesn’t sum this one up.
Tampa survived the third, held on and won the game.
- The Penguins, honestly, don’t have much they need to change heading into game two. Just convert on some chances and they are right there. Which leads to…
- …unreal game by Vasilevskiy. Can’t imagine that being at all easy being thrown into a high-pressure situation again. That’s kind of been his NHL career so far. If you recall, he was the game two winner of the Cup Final last year against Chicago. Now he’s got a conference final win.
- On the other side, brutal game by Letang. Turnovers, bad decisions with the puck, poorly-timed pinches. The guy was a catalyst in the first two rounds and if the Penguins have any hope of getting to the Stanley Cup Final, he needs to be far better.
- Patric Hornqvist, man. What a player. Hard to make a positive out of a 3-1 loss but the guy just consistently performs. Six goals this postseason.
- Couple days to regroup, Penguins are in for a second-straight war of a series. This one again, as seen by the goal-scorers, will be won on the margins. It’ll be nice for a Crosby or a Malkin to go off but at the end of the day, it’s your Shearys, Rusts, Kuhnhackls, and Cullens that win these series.
- First series deficit of the postseason.