Penguins games either seem to start 1 of 2 ways recently. In Scenario A they play poorly and fall in a 1-0 or 2-0 early before battling back. In Scenario B they dominate possession early but usually fail to score enough and find themselves in a tight battle. Tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning was a Scenario B night.
The Pens struck first, courtesy of a nice Patric Hornqvist wrister beating Ben Bishop glove side. Just an artistic little pass off the wall by Chris Kunitz and note that Tampa forward Alex Killorn didn't have a stick on this play, giving even more open room for Hornqvist to operate with.
Hornqvist goal pic.twitter.com/triQGloc7w— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 6, 2016
The early domination would come to an end, Carl Hagelin got a little sloppy on his defensive zone coverage of Anton Stralman (after Tyler Johnson skated around Matt Cullen behind the net) and the puck ends up in the net.
Stralman goal pic.twitter.com/ROrxYTYmf5— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 6, 2016
Tyler Johnson would put Tampa out in front 2-1 after tipping a puck in. More on this in the thoughts below about 2 crucial mistakes made by Pouliot on this play that led to the goal.
Johnny on the (deflected) spot. #PITvsTBL pic.twitter.com/C5N3gGyq7A— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 6, 2016
The Penguins power play has a bumble, Chris Kunitz fumbles the puck at the blueline, Ondrej Palat races in alone on the breakaway and makes a really patient move to open up Marc-Andre Fleury and sneak the puck five-hole.
Kunitz would atone for that mistake with his second really nice pass of the night to Sidney Crosby who buried his 21st goal of the season. Really slick finish by Sid to receive the pass in his wheelhouse and fire off a perfect glove side shot on Bishop.
Crosby goal pic.twitter.com/CuqfZpYj5F— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 6, 2016
Unfortunately, not long after that Matt Cullen would take a sloppy penalty and Tyler Johnson strikes again after a great cross-ice pass by Nikita Kucherov to make the score 4-2, Bolts.
Tyler Johnson goal pic.twitter.com/KUCkt8p4FT— Stephanie (@myregularface) February 6, 2016
The Pens came out flying in the 3rd period, Jeff Zatkoff makes a nice save on Ryan Callahan and Phil Kessel quickly grabs the puck and skates it the whole way. Kessel makes a wonderful pass back to Matt Cullen. Nice center-drive by Hagelin as well and Cullen with the nice finish.
Tampa would try to challenge Hagelin for being off-side, and it was close, but the play was correctly upheld after freeze frames confirmed it.
Matt Cullen converts after receiving a beautiful pass from Phil Kessel. Full replay: https://t.co/WsYr4TxNW5 pic.twitter.com/BB2pFVoDU3— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 6, 2016
Tampa would make it 5-3 with 4 minutes left, Zatkoff leaves a big rebound on a Steven Stamkos shot and Brian Dumoulin goes to the right-handed side to stop Palat, which is unfortunate because Palat is left-handed.
(No GIF because no one likes Tampa)
Stralman finishes the scoring with an ENG.
- Another quick start for the Pens, shots were 10-1 in the first 11 minutes, total domination by every line taking extended shifts in the offensive zone, controlling pucks and putting rubber on the net, all nullified on the scoreboard with Tampa's second shot on goal, which ended up being a goal.
- Oskar Sundqvist NHL debut recap: quiet but certainly didn't look out of place 10:45, 1 shot, even, 1 hit, and looked pretty comfortable at board battles in the offensive zone. Not a game-breaker but with his size and reach nice to see him get the first NHL game under his belt.
Derrick Pouliot could have skated for a puck behind his net with 1:38 left, but pulled back. Judgement call on his part but it didn't seem like he trusted his instincts. Tampa regained control of it, and ended up sending a point shot that Johnson tips at 1:26 after gaining stick positioning on Pouliot. A learning moment for him, I'm sure
- Non-veteran play by Matt Cullen to take a tripping penalty 200 feet from his own net for no reason, just after the Crosby goal to make it 3-2 and with Pittsburgh starting to feed a little on the momentum. Tampa would score quickly on the PP to make it 4-2. Cullen would at least score later, but terrible penalty for him to take at that time.
- Fleury's night ended at that point, giving up 4 goals in 30 minutes after giving up 5 the last game out in Ottawa. Not all of those goals can be pinned on him, but he hasn't looked sharp recently and the team needed the jolt. Now the question becomes, tomorrow night against Florida, do the Pens go back to Fleury?
- Pens power play was 0 for 3, and even though Crosby and Kris Letang have been the focal points of the top unit lately, they looked like they really missed the injured Evgeni Malkin in that regard.
- Zatkoff takes a lot of abuse 'round these parts, but credit to him for coming in when the team was shaky and keeping the puck out of the net for the longest time. It wasn't pretty but it was effective.
- Letang got rocked on a clean hit in the second period by Brian Boyle and then hammered by J.T. Brown on the forecheck. For a guy who isn't shaking hands with his right hand these days, that's concerning. Luckily, he looked no worse for wear and was able to finish the game, but his durability will be in question. He's definitely toughing it out and has been for some time.
- Don't want to say the Pens were a little short-handed tonight but when they pulled their goalie the 6th skater was Bryan Rust with the 1st line. (To be fair, the Kessel line had just finished a shift).
With that, the Pens longest winning streak of the season is history, and they have a matchup against the game Florida Panthers tomorrow night.