Pens win and clinch a playoff berth, but it doesn't come easily

Whew, take a deep breath that is over.  In a physical, chippy, back and forth game, the Penguins hung on to take a 6-4 win over a resilient Tampa Bay Lightning team that was playing for pride (and spots in the NHL next season).

  • Early on it looked like the Penguins had things well under control.  Ruslan Fedotenko scored off a great pass from Jordan Staal to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.  Sidney Crosby scored two goals in a span of 1:10 to make it 3-0.  A minute into the 3rd period Matt Cooke tallies a goal to give Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead and put the Pens on Easy Street to coast to another victory, right?

Wrong.

  • Jeff Halpern, who went an impressive 12 for 15 in the faceoff circle, opened the scoring for Tampa.
  • Then the play that pretty much ended Kris Letang's night.  Faced with a 2 on 1 against Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.  In that scenario the defensemen is supposed to play the pass.  Letang didn't let just one cross-ice pass get through, he let two.  Marc-Andre Fleury was hung out to dry and St. Louis buried it.  That made the score 4-2 and with 11 minutes left to play in the game, Letang would take just two more shifts for a combined 1:10.
  • Paul Szechuan Chicken (or something like that) made the lead just 4-3 when he drove to the net strong for his 4th goal of the season and the second Szczechura has scored at Pittsburgh's expense.
  • Cooke would score the eventual game winner on a controversial play.  Petr Sykora sprung Fedotenko on a breakaway and 'Tenk drove down and got a shot off.  Then Fedotenko accidentally/on purpose bumped into Karri Ramo when he had to stop from full stride in a short area.  The puck was on a platter on an empty net for Sykora.

Up 5-3 with just over 8 minutes to go.  The game's in the bag right?

  • Wrong.  Halpern popped another in the net while Tampa had the goalie pulled with under a minute to go.  The Lightning would go to set up in the Pens zone again but the puck skipped back to the young Stamkos on the point and the young forward couldn't handle it.  Impressively in a foot race Staal beat Stamkos at tapped the open netter.  Finally it's over.

Other little side notes:

  • What in the world happened with Bill Guerin deciding to fight/hug fest it up with the monster Evgeni Artyukhin?  At my house we joked that Guerin took a bet from his teammates that he would fight the biggest guy on the other team.
  • Somehow Crosby got hit with a -4 overall rating tonight...Not really his fault, that sometimes happens in a rock and roll back and forth game.
  • Rough night for Hal Gill too...He got hit with two delay of game penaties and nearly got a third one in the 3rd period when he cleared the puck *just* off the top of the glass.
  • In the Art Ross race, Malkin grabbed two assists, which was matched by Alex Ovechkin's goal and an assist.  Interestingly both were on the ice when the other team pulled their goalie, AO even shot wide with about 5 seconds left.  If one had been able to tack on the empty net it could have been the difference in the season's race.

So now at the end of the day, a win is a win and the Penguins need to move forward.  It was an uneven effort and they need to buckle down, but this clinches a playoff spot and a huge turnaround for the season.

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