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The anatomy of a comeback that wasn't: how the Penguins almost tied the game last night

The Penguins almost eliminated a four goal deficit in the third period to tie Game 4 late, but fell just short, and now we're looking at a series tied at 2 games each, headed back to Pittsburgh for Game 5

Pittsburgh Penguins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Four Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

With the Tampa Bay Lightning leading by a score of 4-0 to enter the 3rd period last night, no one expected the Penguins to almost come back and tie the game. The Penguins took advantage of score effects, and slowly chipped away at the lead.

Phil Kessel gets the Penguins on the board.

Just over a minute into the period, Phil Kessel ripped a goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy, and seeing 18:39 left on the clock following the goal is enough time to make you think, 'Maybe the Penguins can do this.'

The play happened really fast and was ultimately the result of a timely bounce. Nick Bonino was simply trying to get the puck deep along the boards, when it took a bounce off of Slater Koekkoek's stick, as he was trying to step up.

The puck came back to Bonino, who fed it cross-ice to Kessel, who had just came on the ice and snuck into the play on the back end.

Vintage Phil Kessel laser.

If you give Phil Kessel this much time and space from this angle, it's probably not going to go well for you.

4-1 Lightning, and a shimmer of hope with a lot of time left.

Evgeni Malkin has had enough of this shit.

It's clear that Evgeni Malkin is hampered by (most likely the one that sidelined him for nearly 5 weeks) injury, but has still shown his moments of being able to go into Malkin Beast Mode. This was one of those instances.

Down by 3 goals, you're thinking "Okay, if the Penguins get another in the net by the 10:00 mark, we'll have 10 minutes to get two more." It was around the 9:00 mark when Malkin scored this one, only increasing my levels of hope.

The Penguins were entering the zone with strength in numbers. Malkin had the puck on the right, with Chris Kunitz immediately to his left, and Bryan Rust further to the left, stretching the defense.

As Malkin moves to his left and into the slot looking to shoot the puck, Chris Kunitz ties up the stick of Slater Koekkoek, giving Malkin more room. Kunitz and Koekkoek's skates get a little tied up too, but it was incidental. This ultimately took the Lightning player out of the play. Rust staying far to the left in a shooting position kept Braydon Coburn honest and kept him from moving to his left to cover the shot right away.

Malkin made a quick power move to the slot, and was able to get off a shot and get it past Vasilevskiy before anyone could get into the shooting lane.

4-2 Penguins. Surely they can't come back and do this, right?

Chris Kunitz takes advantage of a juicy rebound.

The score is 4-2. If you're sitting at home like me, all you're thinking is "Get another goal and then anything can happen." And then the Penguins got another goal.

Then the Tampa Bay Lightning take a penalty. /Gulp. The Penguins are the power play with around 8 minutes left in the game. Another goal would make it very interesting.

The first minute or so of the power play weren't very threatening, and then, in the blink of an eye, it's 4-3.

Nick Bonino finds himself with the puck, and moves it to Kris Letang at the point.

Under pressure from Valtteri Filppula, Letang makes an unflappable play and moves it cross-ice to an open Conor Sheary.

Sheary puts a non-threatening shot on net, that never really had a chance of being anything substantial.

Except it ended up being a perfect shot off of Vasilevskiy's pads, and ended up right on Chris Kunitz's stick, and he slammed it home. (Edit: I hadn't realized that the puck was tipped on the way in from Sheary, and that helped result in the juicy rebound.)

4-3. Uh-oh. About seven minutes to go, and it feels like the Penguins are going to do this.

So damn close.

The Penguins did not do it. They gave it their damn best and came very close, but 4-0 was too much to recover from. Both Malkin and Letang had chances in the closing minute(s) that were inches away from being goals. The Penguins maintained possession in the zone for quite a while with the extra attacker on the ice. Overtime would've been insane after starting from being down 4 goals, but it wasn't the case.

The only good to draw from this loss is showing even more that when the Penguins play their game, it can go well for them and they can control play. This is skewed a bit by the score effects of the 3rd period, but the Penguins actually looked like the Penguins.

Let's hope that the first two periods are the wakeup call that the Penguins needed to get back and try and close out this series.