PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 23: Brent Johnson #1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins replaces Marc-Andre Fleury #29 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 23, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
It's Saturday afternoon games like this that make a majority of Penguins fans think that matinee games hardly swing in Pittsburgh's favor. While Alex Stich was quick to point out that the Pens did head into Saturday's game with a slight advantage in the wins column with regards to early afternoon matchups, I think it's safe to say they did not walk out of this one on a positive note. Not one bit.
I suppose these kinds of games happen in the postseason but I'd like to think it isn't going to happen again. At least not this year. If we all can agree that the 5-1 loss in Game 2 was painful, then this has got to be labeled as "unbearable." I give a lot of credit to any fan who sat through this one from beginning to end. Outside of thinking "At least I didn't pay good money for a ticket," the second overpowering thought was, "At least this wasn't Game 7."
And really, that's the one and only positive thing we can take from this game, save for the fact that it wasn't a shutout. The defense was not helping out Marc-Andre Fleury one bit today and it showed in his early leave. Steve Stamkos finally lit the lamp for the first time in his postseason career, but if you ask me that goal should not have happened. How were Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin literally giving him an area to work with? If you watch the replay again, they're both behind him, practically bumping into one another. That's where you need to get tough. Level him. Make him think twice about getting that close to the net. But for the love of God, don't let him take a shot. He'd later add another goal and finish the day with two goals and an assist.
You can't possibly watch this game and not compliment the Lightning for coming out hungry for a win. In the end they just wanted it more than Pittsburgh, and the Penguins took a two-game lead for granted in the fact of a team that was and will continue to literally fight for their playoff lives.
Between Vinny Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Pavel Kubina and the aforementioned Stamkos, there was no way the Pens were going to hold off the Tampa Bay offense today. Not to mention, if you thought 5-0 was a big hole at the end of the second period, then we all quickly saw how much worse it can get when the Lightning continued on to a 7-0 run. It wasn't until Mike Rupp scored around seven minutes into the third that the Pens were able to crack the egg. Chris Conner added another, but there was no coming back at that point.
What a painful game to watch, but hopefully it's a reality check for the team. Monday's Game 6 is crucial going to be a crucial factor in this series. For a team that has handled injuries all season long, you don't want to see them waste too much time struggling to get out of the first round, let alone against a team that is lighting them up for eight goals in a single game.
It's back to Tampa as the series continues Monday afternoon (Time TBD).