<![CDATA[As the Lightning headed into Pittsburgh they were looking to get back to business after a week filled with emotional trades. The Bolts can't afford to dwell on personnel changes as they currently sit outside of the playoff picture. Despite getting off to a fast, competitive start the defending Stanley Cup champions took advantage of defensive lapses to win 5-2.
Tampa Bay faced an uphill battle before the puck even dropped as Pittsburgh was 18-2-2 in their previous home games. The Penguins are quite difficult to play at home but things started off well for the visiting team. Action shifted quickly between both ends of the ice. The Triplet line of Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat employed an aggressive forecheck that gave them some great scoring opportunities.
The Lightning opened the scoring at 6:18 of the second period as Adam Erne recorded his first NHL goal. Cedric Paquette did some exceptional work digging the puck out of the corner for Vladislav Namestnikov who fed the puck to Erne. Victor Hedman was called for a tripping penalty not long after and Evgeni Malkin tied the game at 1 a piece at 8:39 off of a killer pass from Phil Kessel. Tampa Bay tempted fate by giving up too many odd-man rushes to a very talented Pittsburgh team. It bit them at 16:49 when Malkin scored his second of the game.
Peter Budaj made his Lightning debut in net this evening. He made some pretty spectacular stops including the now famous “butt save” in the second period:
— x – Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 4, 2017
Tampa carried the man advantage into the final 20 minutes. Jonathan Drouin fed the puck to Nikita Kucherov who put a laser of a shot past Matt Murray to tie the game at 1:10. Pittsburgh moved ahead again when Mark Streit scored on a delayed penalty call at 2:38. Yes, that Mark Streit who was briefly a member of the Lightning organization on Wednesday before being sent to the Penguins. Ouch.
The Bolts spent a bit too much time watching the puck instead of challenging the opposition in the third despite getting some offensive chances. Andrej Sustr was called for a hooking call at 15:40 and Justin Schultz widened the Penguins’ lead to 4-2. Tom Kuhnhackl would score an empty netter to secure the 5-2 win.
Special teams, particularly the penalty kill, were a big issue for the Bolts this evening. They were feeling the loss of players like Brian Boyle in those situations. The score may not reflect well on Budaj’s debut but he made some incredible saves to keep his team in it. They couldn’t sustain their desperate defensive play of the first period and turnovers to a skilled Pittsburgh squad sealed their fate.
Tampa Bay will travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres tomorrow at 7:00.