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.
Let’s not sugarcoat this: the Penguins got lucky in this one.
Now, it’s the postseason, more importantly, it’s the conference final. We’re fully into “I’d rather be lucky than good” territory and if you’re holding a 35-pound silver chalice over your head in about a month’s time, no one cares how you did it.
This isn’t to say the Penguins played poorly, not the case either.
All that said, you can’t dominate an opening period, take a two-goal lead and let a team that is so supremely talented like Tampa walk their way back in.
Sid picked one hell of a time to end his scoring drought and get his first playoff OT-winner.
Vasilevskiy played outside of his mind again, making 38 saves. Murray’s workload was considerably lighter, facing only 21 shots in total.
Pens were one shot away from completely surrendering home-ice advantage. The captain was there to keep it even.
Whether they dodged a bullet or delayed the inevitable, we’ll see in just about a week’s time.
Penguins vs. Lightning
Game Two, Eastern Conference Finals
CONSOL Energy Center
Watch The Full Game
Few changes for the Penguins in this one. Fehr and Rust swap spots at forward, Schultz comes in and Maatta comes out on defense with pairing shaken up.
Same deal for Tampa, Brown moves up to the top line with Boyle and Paquette, Marchessault comes in for Callahan. Defense stays the same and Vasilevskiy starts.
Took but a mere ten seconds for the Penguins to get the game’s opening chance. With Malkin’s line starting, Chris Kunitz found himself one-on-one with Vasilevskiy.
Unreal pass by Daley and a better save by Vasilevskiy.
The first four-and-a-half minutes were absolutely nonstop. If you want a window into what hockey is and is going to be, watch this game from the drop of the puck until the first break in play, which…
A 2-on-1 with Cullen and Fehr and while Tampa’s defenseman Hedman doesn’t play this in the best way, full credit to Matt Cullen from start to finish – incredible pass to Fehr for the initial chance and delays just long enough that all of Tampa’s defenders lose track of him, giving him the space to bury the rebound past Vasilevskiy.
Even with the Penguins carrying play and smothering the Lightning, we saw in game one, all it takes for this Tampa team is one opportunity and they’re right back.
With a 1-0 lead, Ben Lovejoy keeps it that way.
Filppula with a real nice cross-crease feed that catches Murray’s toe and lands right on the tape of, go ahead an cringe, Drouin. Lovejoy drops down, blocks the shot and covers for Murray who doesn’t have the time to get all the way over.
Plays like that win championships.
Penguins didn’t dare slow the pace. They were going to keep the pedal to the medal in this period and just before the halfway mark, it was Phil The Thrill again proving that when it matters, Phil Kessel is there.
Is there such a place as the puck movement museum? No? Well, there should be and the inaugural exhibit should be the HBK line. Soviets? Psssh. Get real, dude.
Hagelin fires in a shot from the point that is stopped by Vasilevskiy and Bonino tried to bury the rebound but is locked in a battle with Paquette. For some reason, Tampa deems Phil Kessel (yes, that Phil Kessel) not to be a threat and just forgets about him.
The puck ping-pongs out to him and Vasilevskiy has absolutely zero chance.
The turning point of this period and pretty much the game was with about six minutes left. The Penguins would get two power-play opportunities that they would come up empty on.
The first was run of the mill but with a 2-0 lead, a chance to go up by three, and against a team like Tampa, you have to capitalize.
A bit of a broken zone entry but Tampa recovers. Marchessault makes a nice cross-ice pass to Stralman who elevates the puck over a sliding Murray.
You cringed. I did too. You knew they were coming.
Again, Drouin takes a late penalty and the Penguins have a chance to restore a two-goal lead.
This time, the power play is disjointed and gets nothing going.
New chapter, same story.
Drouin, fresh out of the box on a 2-on-2 just declares that he’s going to snipe and that’s what he does.
My god. What a shot.
That would be that for the first.
A solid 16 or so minutes to start the game but once again, Tampa took full advantage of two chances and we were tied despite the Penguins severely outplaying them for most of the period.
If the first period was a fast-paced track meet, the second period was a slog.
Neither team was truly able to get anything going and if they did the goalies were right there.
Some help from Hagelin but Murray slowed him down to make it all possible.
The Penguins’ best chance came from Sid and Vasilevskiy would make an unrealistic save. Sure, Sid didn’t get everything on it but my god.
It was honestly an extremely boring period with nothing worth writing about.
What do you want from me? Not all of these games can be instant classics.
The Penguins treated the third period like a team that had no interest in this one going to overtime.
They outshot the Bolts 16-6, held onto the puck for long stretches, and had several second chances. You couldn’t say the same for Tampa.
Vasilevskiy was the main reason this one headed to OT.
Making saves with player sticks…unbelievable.
It really felt like two was all the Penguins would get.
You had to hold on to the hope that the dam would break, especially with the Penguins continually getting chances.
Suddenly, there was a pit in your stomach. You’ve seen this movie before. The Penguins dominate for 55 out of 60 minutes, go to OT, and boom: gut-punch loss.
Sid quelled that feeling in under a minute.
Unreal pass from Dumoulin to Rust to get the transition going and the subtle little delay and open up by Rust to get Sid the puck in a prime scoring area…chefskiss dot gif.
- Not so much about actual officiating but a thought about linesmen: Literally no one is there to watch you unless your family is in the building. If a center is slightly off-center but not blatantly cheating, just drop the goddamn puck. Multiple times throughout this game, faceoffs had false starts, redraws, and centers on both teams kicked out. It adds nothing to the game. If Matt Cullen’s right big toe is 32 degrees off-center, it doesn’t give him an inherent advantage. Cut the shit.
- Big-time players come up big when the stage calls for it. It took 100+ playoff games and few that went to OT but Sid finally has that.
- Another quietly solid outing for Murray. The workload wasn’t heavy but considering the firepower on that Tampa roster, keeping them to two goals or less is no small feat.
- I said it early on in the run, this Penguins’ defense corps is not star-studded but they are the unsung heroes of this run. They move the puck well, they take hits to make plays, and they are extremely well-positioned in the defensive zone. Lovejoy’s first-period shot block was one of several really, really steady plays he made throughout.
- Geno Malkin is about to go off. He was ahead of the play all night, he was skating with a purpose, he had some good looks, and just didn’t score. It’s coming.
Off to Florida with the series even.