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Tampa's Early Lead Too Much for Pens: Lose to Lightning 5-1

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Lightning Blog: Raw Charge

Anyone who thought this series would turn out to be a sweep was sorely mistaken tonight as the Penguins played only two solid periods of hockey en rout to a 5-1 loss to the Lightning.

On the bright side, we're at least guaranteed a Saturday night hockey game next week.

It was a hard-hitting affair without question.  Brooks Orpik was, as Mike Lange would say, a man possessed.  His hit on Sean Bergenheim at the end of the third period was a solid indicator that at least one big d-man is not going to go quietly into the night. 

Craig Adams and the Pens didn't waste any time getting on the scoreboard in the second period, but unfortunately there was a whole other period before that one that did not turn out so well for the boys in black and gold.  Three goals on eight shots was not a very Marc-Andre Fleury-like performance - at least not as of late, that is - and the early hole wound up being just too much for the Pens to dig themselves out of.  It also didn't help that after trimming the lead to only two goals in the second and at least giving the team a chance to rally in the third, the Pens could not escape the last 20 seconds of the second period when Martin St. Louis picked up a power-play goal with 14 seconds on the clock.  Tough break for the Pens, but that's just the way it was going to be tonight.

Orpik may have had a few solid hits on the night, but Chris Kunitz led the team with an industrious six-hit outing.  I also have to say that I like what I'm seeing from Arron Asham at this point on all ends of the ice.  Not only did he tally his second point in two postseason games, but he is also really aggressive on the forecheck and playing a solid game in terms of his puck awareness.  We all know at this point that it was not the healthiest of regular seasons for him, but if this is what the Pens were missing for most of the games between October and April then man, did they miss out.

If you asked me if there's one area that could be the turning point in this tied series as it heads back to Tampa for Game Three on Monday, I'd say it's the power play.  Tampa converted on two of seven chances in Game Two, while Pittsburgh came up empty on seven chances.  Combine that with Pittsburgh's 0-for-5 in Game One, and the Penguins are a combined 0-for-12 on the power play in the postseason.  It didn't necessarily make or break the team during the regular season, but it can hurt them and will hurt them if it doesn't change soon.

However, if the Penguins' power play isn't going to improve, then the least they can do is limit penalties.  Tampa went 0-for-1 in Game One.  It's not a big area to pull evidence from, but when compared to the team's two goals on six chances in Game Two, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that limited the Lightning's opportunities on the man advantage is a definite area of concern moving forward in the series.

All in all, this game was the complete polar opposite from Game One, and not just with regards to the end result.  The Pens and Lightning played a strong defensive game in the first two periods of Wednesday's game before the Pens were able to open up the flood gates and attack with a quick two-goal barrage in the third.  Game Two was a different atmosphere, as the Lightning seemed intent right from the get go to not come up on the blank side of a shutout in two consecutive games. 

Adjustments will be made and the arena will change for Game Three.  Here's to hoping the Pens can swing back into Saturday's Game 5 matchup at Consol with a 3-1 series lead.

Worth noting: After registering just over 17 minutes of ice time in Game One, Zbynek Michalek topped off at 25:20 in Game Two, the most out of any player for either team.