Jordan Staal showed up in Tampa Bay today ready to play. It's a good thing too, because without him the Pens would've been in an entirely different game.
Staal racked up three points on two goals and an assist tonight to help lead the Pens to victory over the historically superior TB Bolts. In case you missed the game notes prior to the puck dropping, up until tonight the Pens lost 12 consecutive games against Tampa. Nice time to snap the streak, and a great time to add one more win to the eight-game win streak.
The first period started out a bit shaky. I could elaborate in so many words, or I can show you this picture taken at the end of the first period.
Tampa hit Conklin with 13 shots in the first. He stopped every...single...one.
Not to mention, Conklin absolutely stoned Lecavalier on what could very likely be the save of the year.
With the puck staggering around in the Pittsburgh zone, Vinny sat patiently deep trying to gain the puck. With the defense committed to the play, it came down to Vinny, a WIDE OPEN net and Conklin. He aims, he shoots...
He's denied by a diving Conklin.
The Lightning owned the Penguins in the first. Pittsburgh limps out with the score tied at zero.
In the midst of a barrage within the first five minutes of the second, Conklin and the Pens' D were unable to clear a loose puck in front of the net. Tampa's Paul Ranger picked up the trash to make it a 1-0 Tampa lead.
Exactly eight minutes later on the power play, Petr Sykora cranks one that nicks the tip of Jordan Staal's stick to tie the game at one. Sykora initially gets credit, but upon further review Jordan Staal was awarded the goal, his fourth in 42 games.
Less than two and a half minutes later, Staal decides he wants to play again. With some traffic in front and the longest stick on this side of the Mississippi, Staal jabs it in for his fifth of the year. Pens lead 2-1.
The third period started off with a four minute power play awarded to the Lightning. According to the call on the ice, Maxime Talbot drew blood on a high-sticking call that left the Lightning's O'Brien bloodied and pissed. With Max in the box, the video replay shows that he didn't even so much as touch O'Brien. The stick to the face came from another guy on the Lightning, but yet they still received the power play chance. It was extended two minutes more when blood drained from O'Brien's face.
No matter. The Pens killed the penalty off with the efficiency of Lee Harvey Oswald on a day's vacation in Dallas.
With nearly eight minutes left, the Pens were hoping to either add another goal or at least maintain the lead. Ryan Malone stepped up on a pass from Jordan Staal to make Conklin's job a little easier on the night.
Finally as the clock winded down the final horn, Malkin tallied the empty netter to put the final at 4-1 Pens.
Conklin (9-0) looked amazing in net yet again. The Pens' defense was challenged early and often tonight, but they fought off the assault well. Had the D not laid out their sliding bodies throughout the first period, Conk could've very well had 20 plus shots sent on him before the first horn.
Max Talbot was back in the lineup tonight and he sure made his presence known. Aside from the blatantly obvious innocence on the high-sticking call, his prowess on the PK was second to none. No wonder why the Bolts' PP was 0-3 on the night.
Mark it - eight in a row for the Pens. Pitt's looking to make it nine on Saturday when they head off to Atlanta to take on Mark Recchi and the Thrashers. As instances in the past have shown, Crosby and Kovalchuk don't exactly get along well. But as the last 4-0 win against Atlanta also shows, there won't be much cheering from the Atlanta bench.
Pens/Thrashers, Saturday at 7:30pm in Atlanta.