A season can turn in the course of a shift, and for PIttsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby that nearly happened Sunday. Crosby skated the puck into the zone and was checked by "pest" Steve Downie who proceeded to roll up on Crosby's legs in a purposely move. It looked bad for Sid, who hobbled to the bench, but he didn't miss much time and ended up skating more than any other player in the game.
With that bullet dodged, the Pens caught their breath and eventually made a couple plays to beat Antero Niittymaki and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Vincent Lecavalier scored the game's only goal through the first 40 minutes, but in the third the Pens dug down and got tallies from Pascal Dupuis and Sergei Gonchar on the PP to take the lead and then hold on for the final whistle.
- Star forward Evgeni Malkin didn't return to the game for the third period after being hit by a puck. His status and prognosis remains unknown at this time. Sans Geno, Crosby played an incredible 10:20 of the third period.
- Marc-Andre Fleury put a sharp performance together, stopping 21 of 22 shots. Fleury played very well, looked on his angles and was there on several quick cross-ice one-times. Tampa looked to beat MAF by getting him moving, but they were unable to beat him there.
- The Pens focus on shooting the puck continues; they outgunned Tampa 39-22, and also out-attempted them 69-35. Lately Pittsburgh has been out-shooting and attempting their opponents about a 2-to-1 margin, and today was more of the same.
- Another trend, this one disturbing, has been the lack of blocked shots. The Pens had only 7 on the night, and only 4 by their defense (none of whom got any more than 1). Is that because it's tough to block shots when you're always in the offensive zone or something that needs to be addressed?
- Jay McKee and Tyler Kennedy got back in the lineup (at the expense of healthy scratches in Alex Goligoski and Maxime Talbot) and both looked good in their return. McKee blocked a shot, had a hit, a takeaway in 14:34 of work. Kennedy got some chances to play with Crosby and added some jump in 10:56 of playing time.
- If you have been paying a little bit of attention, this isn't exactly news, but it still bares repeating. Steven Stamkos has arrived. To me, he was Tampa's best forward all over the ice, he led them in shots and shots attempted and laid a big time hit on Matt Cooke that probably did win him a few fans around the league.
- Special teams play shifted the balance of the game, Tampa took two penalties early in the third, including some 5-on-3 time for Pittsburgh. Gonchar converted on the eventual game winner. Tampa went 0 for 3 on the night with the man advantage in the game. That turns the tide.
A successful day, pending the availability of Malkin. The Pens have two more games on the road, but since they don't play until Wednesday they're actually going back home. New Jersey, who's had Pittsburgh's number all season looms large. It's about as big as regular season games will be.