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Penguins Start Out with a Shutout: Beat Lightning 3-0

Lightning Blog: Raw Charge

What a way to start a series for Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins as the defense stayed strong all game long and the offense hit its stride just in time for a three-goal third period.  The Pens now hold an early 1-0 series lead over the Lightning in what will no doubt be an intense series.

Say what you will about the score,  but it was hardly a blowout.  The Lightning kept it close for two periods before Alex Kovalev and Arron Asham struck to make it 2-0.  Chris Kunitz later added the empty netter in the dying seconds of the game, but the biggest hat tip has to go to Fleury and his 32 save performance.

Each of the first two goals was special in its own way, but also unified by the sheer fact that they came in back-to-back fashion.  Kovalev's goal was a solid example of two things: one, how you can never rule a guy completely out of a play and two, it's all about right place, right time.  It was pretty obvious to everyone watching that Kovy did not walk away from that hit well.  But the Lightning made the mistake of counting him out.  That came back to nip them in the pads, as James Neal set up AK72 with a solid one-timer that beat 90-year-old Dwayne Roloson glove side.

Not even 20 seconds later, Arron Asham skates in with the puck and takes the NHL11 approach to score a nifty glitch goal (video game nerds unite!).  Not a bad performance from a guy who was missing for the better part of the season.  If he wants to wake up at this point in the season then by all means, do it.

Who can also overlook the Brooks Orpik hit on Steve Stamkos?  As many have said during and after the game, that really set the tempo right off the bat and let the Lightning know that this team is out for blood.

It's still a long series that's set to continue this Friday night, but it's nice to see the Pens take the early lead.  Even though there has been no official culprit behind Sidney Crosby's season-long injury, there's no denying that Tampa Bay played a part in his status for the second-half of the regular season when Victor Hedman was hit with a boarding call back in January. 

Again, you can say it was the Winter Classic that injured him for the year.  You can even say that Crosby probably shouldn't have played against the Lightning if that was the case.  But Tampa Bay is the team that knocked him out for the regular season as far as I'm concerned, and what better payback than to knock them out of the postseason?

In other conference news, the Rangers lost to the Capitals in overtime after Alex Ovechkin scored in regulation and Alex Semin picked up the game winner.  Tomorrow's Boston-Montreal game and Philly-Buffalo matchup should be interesting ones.

Rest up.  Back at it Friday.