In a somewhat sloppy game, the Pittsburgh Penguins never quit against the Tampa Bay Lightning and stayed close enough to keep the score tied until a last minute power play goal by Matt Niskanen would win the game for them.
Falling down 1-0 in the first, before Sidney Crosby could tie it a 1, Tampa would again jump out to 2-1 and 3-2 leads. But the Pens would always stay within one, and even jumped out to a 4-3 third period lead when Crosby scored two more goals to complete his hat-trick.
Tampa would tie the game with just 3 minutes left, somewhat controversially, when a referee helped Steven Stamkos skate back to the bench after Stamkos had a skate malfunction. This resulted in Stamkos getting on-side (and also bumping into a Penguins defenseman) and throwing off the Pens long enough for Richard Panik to make a nice pass to Alex Killorn to tie the game.
But the Pens would be lucky enough to recover and saw Niskanen win them the game after receiving a sick pass from Evgeni Malkin and blow a shot by Anders Lindback to get Pittsburgh out with the two points.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- Sure sign the Pens had to kill a lot of penalties- Craig Adams (15:19) got more ice-time in the game than Jussi Jokinen (14:12). The PK gave up 2 goals on 5 chances, which isn't great, but obviously was decent enough to hold them into the game.
- The power play, on the other hand, is starting to heat up. In 5 chances (and 7:16) the Pens put 10 shots on net, and 3 of them ended up in the goal, with Crosby netting two of them and Malkin and Jokinen kicking in two assists a piece.
- Not a good night to be a goalie. With relatively few shots (26 for the Pens, 18 for the Lightning) but a lot of high-quality power play chances and low-percentages deflections, bang-bang passes it wasn't a good save percentage night for Lindback or Marc-Andre Fleury.
- But, the Pens did a good job late in locking down. In the third period they limited Tampa to just two shots (one of them being Killorn's PP goal) and the Pens also scored three goals in the frame including one to tie the game on the first shift, and then obviously Niskanen's winner with just 19 seconds left. Maybe easily the best and most effective periods of the young season.
- How 'bout Brooks Orpik tonight? He played 25:50 (all at even-strength or on the PK), scored a rare goal, also had 3 shots on goal (and 8 shot attempts, which has to be a personal high), a game-high 7 hits and a tied-for-game-high 4 blocked shots. Big time game for Orpik who was all over the place.
I saw a stat that in recent years, the Pens have had about a .500 record while playing in Florida, often of which they'll play both teams on the same trip south. That trend holds again this time with a win in Tampa following a loss in Miami. And, whether i's focus, playing back-to-backs, or what have you, but it can be a difficult trip to make. And now it's over, and at least ended on a winning note.