During his morning press conference before this game, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper referred to his 15 games behind the bench last year and said that only one team outclassed Tampa Bay. That was Pittsburgh, which beat the Lightning, 6-3, late last year. “It could have been 16-3,” quipped Cooper. He then stated that he was curious to see how his team matched up in the first meeting between the clubs this year.
For two periods on Saturday night, the Lightning matched up very well. It was a back-and-forth game through the first 40 minutes – and the Lightning took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
But the game turned in the opening shift of the third period, when the Penguins got a goal from Sidney Crosby. That goal set the tone for most of the third. Unlike the first two periods, the Lightning struggled to get zone time in the third – and they didn’t register a shot on goal until late in the frame.
Having written that, give the Bolts some credit for tying the game, 4-4, with just over three minutes left in the third. As they have already done earlier in the season, the Lightning found a way to rally.
But on this night, the Penguins made one more play than the Lightning. In particular, Pittsburgh did damage on the power play, on which it scored three goals, including the winner with just over 18 seconds left. Five power plays were too many to give the Pens, who looked dangerous even on the two failed chances.
This one hurts for a few reasons. The Lightning were 19 seconds away from OT and at least one point, but lost the game in regulation. They couldn’t hold three separate one-goal leads, including a 3-2 third period advantage. And they weren’t able to maintain their high level into the third period, which has been one of their best periods this year.
Still, the Lightning did show that they can play with the Penguins. It was a much closer game than the 6-3 contest last year. And as much as the loss stings, they’ll attempt to learn from it and be better because of it.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito). Crosby’s goal 25 seconds into the third period that tied the game, 3-3, and set the tone for most of the rest of the period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito).
- Sidney Crosby – Penguins. Hat trick, assist. As is often the case, he was the best player on the ice – for either team.
- Victor Hedman – Lightning. Assist. Plus two. His great skating ability was on display for much of the game.
- Jussi Jokinen - Penguins. Two assists. Key cog on Pittsburgh’s power play, setting up both of Crosby’s power play markers.