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Pens Beat Lightning 3-2, Take 2-1 Series Lead

Two goals in 45 seconds is a beautiful way to open up a game.  The only downside to that obvious upswing is that there's still plenty of time before that final horn.  In other words, anything can happen.

Max Talbot opened up the scoring on a long-distance shot that managed to beat Dwayne Roloson blocker-side early in the first.  While many of us were still celebrating Max's opener in the comment section of the game thread, Mike Rupp bolted down the ice, pulled off a nifty inside-out move and found a wide open Arron Asham in front of the net to put the Pens up 2-0.  Martin St. Louis would later tag on a power-play goal before the period was over to pull Tampa within one.

While the Penguins did open up the second period with a 2-1 lead, the momentum really seemed to be in Tampa Bay's favor.  Minus a strong power move from Jordan Staal nearly halfway through the period that almost paid off with a big goal, Marc-Andre Fleury did a majority of the work to keep the Pens in the lead. 

Of course, you wouldn't really know based on the boxscore, as Tampa was credited with six shots on goal compared to Pittsburgh's nine.  But if you watched the game you know how many chances the Lightning had to tie things up in the second period.  Just because some of those chances didn't register as a shot on goal doesn't mean they didn't exist.  If you need another example look no further than James Neal's missed opportunity on Roloson late in the second period.  It looked like an open net.  It looked like the puck was on his stick and headed to the mesh.  But looks can be deceiving, and Neal unfortunately came up empty on what should have been a Penguins goal.

The third period was going to be the make or break point for the Pens and by the look of things early on, it was looking more like the latter of the two.  Martin St. Louis netted his second power-play goal of the game after Paul Martin went off to the box for an odd interference penalty.  But thankfully for the Pens, not even 30 seconds later Tyler Kennedy picked up some trash in front of Roloson to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead.

The score stayed that way for the remainder of the game, but there were definitely a number of close calls in the third period, particularly on behalf of the Lightning.  Even more specifically, the last 90 seconds of the game when Roloson headed to the bench in favor of the extra attacker.  If you needed a greater example of how determined the Pens were to win this game, look no further than the final 90 seconds of the game when the Lightning unleashed a barrage of shots and Pens defenders were just throwing themselves in front of the puck at any cost.  The same could even be said of Fleury, who was going from side to side and top to bottom like a man on one mission: keep the dam puck out.  Before long the final horn buzzed and the rest of the Pens jumped over the boards to celebrate, but I don't think it's a stretch to say a number of them were limping off the ice after this one.

I've said it once and I'll say it again - Asham is earning every penny of his contract in the postseason.  His Game Three goal gives him two goals and one assist in three games - or better yet, one point per game.  For a forth liner it's the sort of contribution that cannot be described by any word other than "clutch."

In the Game Two recap I mentioned how the Penguins needed to limit penalties if they wanted to win this series.  This easily stemmed from the Game Two performance in which the Pens gave up two goals on six penalty-kill situations, but it only continued even further in Game Three.  St. Louis, for as deadly as he can be, just enters a whole other world when the Lightning is on the power play.  He did that twice tonight for Tampa Bay and made every penalty the Pens took stand as a potential game-losing call.

To put it simply, St. Louis is dangerous.  But for the most part Steve Stamkos has been rather ineffective through the first three games of the series and, Mario/God willing, will remain that way until the Pens take the win. 

Game Four is Wednesday at 7:00.  Penguins hold a 2-1 series lead and will look to hopefully close out the best-of-seven series Saturday on home ice.