It was the Penguins' first game without star center Evgeni Malkin, who was declared out of Sunday's game after experiencing concussion-like symptoms from a collision with the boards in Friday's game against Florida. As Malkin did so many times in the past, Crosby stepped up in the absence of the Penguins' other big center, potting two first-period goals and assisting on Bennett's first to wrap his three-point night.
With Malkin out and Bennett finding more ice time with each game, it was the first time Crosby played regular minutes with Bennett (on the PP) and James Neal, each projected to be Crosby's future winger at the times of their acquisitions.
The new first line of Chris Kunitz-Crosby-Neal was on the ice for the Pens' first two goals. Neal and Kunitz each finished with an assist on the night, and the line accounted for a combined 5 points and plus-3 rating.
Tampa Bay started the season on a tear but has fallen off of late. The loss in Pittsburgh dropped them out of first in the Southeast Division and into the final playoff spot in the East.
The Lightning have won just three of their last ten games.
Stamkos matched Crosby's three point effort, helping him to maintain a one-point lead over Crosby in the NHL scoring race. Stamkos (13-16-29) leads the NHL in goals and points, with Crosby (9-19-28) in hot pursuit.
With their win over the Lightning and an earlier loss by the Devils, the Penguins moved into first place in the Atlantic Division and into a points tie for first in the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh owns the most wins in the East with 13, and their 12 regulation/overtime wins are also tops in the Conference. The logjam at the top of the conference remains as six teams are within two points of the conference lead, but the Penguins are putting themselves in good early position in the shortened season.
Following three straight home games, the Pens will play three straight and five of their next six on the road, with three of the five dates against Southeast Division opponents.
Pittsburgh's 8-2-0 road record is tops in the East, and the Penguins are 5-1-0 against Southeast Division opponents this season.