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Penguins vs. Lightning Game 1: Pittsburgh falls 3-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins fall behind 3-0 early to the Tampa Bay Lightning and couldn't climb out of the hole in Game 1 of the 2016 Eastern Conference finals.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins


Pens the roll with the same personnel and lines as the last game against the Caps.

Tampa goes with 11F/7D. One of those 7 is not Anton Stralman who is practicing and seemingly close (but not playing yet, obvi) and one of those 11F is not Steven Stamkos who remains in a murky status for when he can return.

The Highlights

First period

Early on, Ryan Callahan sees Kris Letang numbers all the way and still plasters him head-first into the boards. NHL hockey. Letang is left motionless for a while and leaves the ice not to return.

Unfortunately the next highlight would be another injury. Tampa's super goalie Ben Bishop, spins awkwardly, might have gotten his right leg caught up then falls back and goes down in a ton of pain from his left knee/leg/ankle. He remains on the ice in sheer agony through the TV timeout and they have to bring the stretcher out. Never great to see that, on an innocent enough looking play, with no contact from a Penguin or Lightning player.

Not going to link the GIF of his face in pain, but Bishop was in about as much visible pain as anyone in recent memory. All the best for him, it certainly looks like some major damage was done. Talented 21-year backup Andrei Vasilevskiy would come into the net in relief.

Tampa would score first, a great outlet pass from Victor Hedman all the way up to Alex Killorn. Olli Maatta is on the wrong side of the ice for some reason and Killorn is in all free, beating Matt Murray 5-hole after a deke. 1-0 Tampa.

Late in the first period, Chris Kunitz nails Tyler Johnson with a big check along the boards after Johnson spins from playing the puck. Johnson left and couldn't put any weight on his knee going off the ice. Does Kunitz go in leg-first? Does he adjust to make sure he clips him there? Slow motion makes it look so, but the game isn't played in slow-motion, either. Johnson would return mid-way through the 2nd period and fortunately avoided a major injury.

Second Period

Evgeni Malkin takes a needless offensive zone penalty and Tampa takes advantage, Valtteri Filppula takes a big shot that Murray can't control the rebound on, the puck kicks out to Ondrej Palat who does a really good job to corral it and throw it home to make it 2-0 on the power play.

Tampa stretches the lead to 3-0 with Jonathan Drouin scoring on a beauty pass from Palat after Brian Dumoulin mis-plays a puck in the offensive zone, then commits the cardinal sin on an odd-man break of letting the cross-ice pass get through.

Pittsburgh gets some hope late, though with Patric Hornqvist tossing a puck past Vasilevskiy to make it 3-1.

Third Period

The Pens get a push but don't score early. Palat takes out Dumoulin and gets a 2-minute penalty because, well, it's the NHL.

No more scoring.

Some Thoughts

  • Callahan makes a suspendable hit on Letang, and hey at least the referees give him a 5-minute major, but no game-misconduct? Do you literally have to make someone leave on a stretcher to be kicked out of a game?
  • The Penguins got 4 shots and 5 scoring chances in the mostly uneven 5-minute power play following the Callahan hit but no goals.
  • First period was really odd with the Letang injury early, Bishop in the middle which required an extended pause, then Johnson late. Unsettling stuff.
  • Maatta might be lucky for all that commotion, he certainly got burnt by Killorn. But that play, in totality, exposes more issues for the Pens for a breakdown. Hedman made a great pass, but he had plenty of space and area to make a 3-zone pass up to Killorn. Maatta was on his off-side of the ice (right). Ultimately, Maatta deservedly eats a big piece of the blame pie for his execution, but a lot of little things went wrong for Pittsburgh there.
  • If you added up the number of nice support plays that Eric Fehr and Kunitz made for Malkin, you'd end up with...0 plays. Pittsburgh has great depth but the talent is spread a bit thin. Which isn't a big deal when the nets are getting filled, but when they aren't the balance of the Pens is an issue with too many passengers (Fehr, Kunitz, Conor Sheary) spread across lines with superstars.
  • The Pens did a really poor job by only getting 1 SOG on Vasilevskiy in the first period, in a stretch of 7:25. It was unfortunate Bishop got hurt, but Pittsburgh had a chance to shoot on a cold goalie and a guy who might not have been mentally prepared for the moment. And they let him off the hook, as Denny Green would say.
  • To his credit, Vasilevskiy was really solid. Perhaps he was mentally prepared all along. 23 saves on 24 shots and he looked Murray-esque in being a young goalie totally in control of everything thrown his way.
  • Speaking of Murray, not much to blame on him giving up a breakaway goal, a PP goal that resulted from an unmarked man in a prime scoring area and a 3-on-1 against nice pass.
  • The Penguins were dominant in faceoffs winning 60% of them on the night. Matt Cullen (11 wins, 4 losses) and Malkin (6 wins, 1 loss) were the best of the night.
  • Shots too, 34-20 on the night, an 15-5 in the 3rd. Not many great scoring chances though, the Tampa defense did well and also blocked 20 Pittsburgh shots.
  • The Pens defense and health is something to watch. Dumoulin wouldn't return after being boarded late in the game, Letang did return from getting boarded but understanably didn't look all that sharp. If either or both feel symptoms and can't play on Monday, that's a huge hole in the depth chart.

Important to remember on an emotional night that it is a 7 game series. The Penguins didn't play particularly well, but still have some positives to build on. Tampa, to their credit, took the loss of their starting goalie in stride and did play pretty well, and deserved to win home-ice advantage back. Game 2 on Monday.