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Penguins vs. Lightning Recap: Bye week over, winning begins again

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The Penguins are done with their bye week, and start 2017 where 2016 left off with a 6-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pregame

Wow what a tribute to the 2009 Stanley Cup team

Lineup looks about the same as it has been of late. Steve Oleksy plays instead of Chad Ruhwedel which is kind of weird since Ruhwedel played this week in WB/S but whatevs.

1st period

Weird start, not much going on. The Penguins look like they haven't played in 8 days. The Lightning look like they're playing their 4th game in 6 days, including a game and travel yesterday. Evgeni Malkin doesn't subscribe to "new year, new you" as he takes an offensive zone penalty. Nothing comes of it.

Shots 15-10 Pittsburgh after 1. Dangerous or interesting shots seem about like 0-0.

2nd period

Early in the period the Pens get pinned in their own zone for a little and Jonathan Drouin puts a rebound by Marc-Andre Fleury to put Tampa up 1-0.

The Pens even it back up soon, Sidney Crosby sets up Bryan Rust in the high-slot and his spinning shot scoots by Andrei Vasilevskiy but little Conor Sheary is Johnny-on-the-spot to tap it in, just to make sure and make it 1-1.

Matt Cullen sets up Eric Fehr and...nope. Robbed.

Fittingly enough, Fehr gets his revenge on Vasilevskiy on the next meaningful play, and not coincidentally it comes from another nice pass from Cullen. This time the two vets hook up on a 2v1 just after a penalty expires to put the Pens up 2-1.

Shots 29-21 Pittsburgh after 2. Goals 2-1, good guys.

3rd period

The Pens extend the lead to 3-1 with Olli Maatta getting in on the play deep in the o-zone and making a nice centering pass for just his 4th assist of the year for Chris Kunitz to score but his 4th goal of the year.

Scott Wilson boosts the lead to 4-1 by outracing Anton Stralman to a loose puck and then going backhand for a breakaway goal.

Tampa gets one back on a power play, Vladislav Namestnikov hammers a puck home off a nice pass from Drouin.

But Pittsburgh doesn't rest, Crosby, from right in the crease, finds the puck after a Sheary shotm and pokes it over to Phil Kessel who makes no mistakes to lift it over the goalie from point-blank range. 5-2.

In the dying moments of the game, and a power play, the Pens just toss their 4th line out there, Wilson almost scores but denied, then the puck gets to the point and Schultz lays one over for Kris Letang hammers in to make it 6-2.

Some Thoughts

  • In the first period, Pens get an o-zone draw and put Crosby and Kessel out for a 4v4. Interesting since 87 and 81 don't usually play together that often at even situations. Crosby lost the faceoff and nothing much came of that shift, but like that crappy Christmas present you got- it's the thought that counts. And it would pay off later in the 3rd period with Sid and Phil hooking up for a goal.
  • Sheary's goal a good example of how a little guy can pick his spots and succeed in today's NHL. Doesn't have to be afraid to go to the net and Sheary's able to pop out and tap home the goal like that a lot.
  • Noticed Nikita Kucherov a couple times for the wrong reason, he got planted on his keister a couple times early in the game while he had the puck, then a bad decision turned it over to Cullen that led to the Pens second goal of the game.
  • Other Tampa thought: every time they play the Pens, Drouin's the best player on their team.
  • Interesting power play alignment, no Patric Hornqvist for the net-front, but a 3F/2D status with Justin Schultz on the top unit. Seemed like Crosby was spending the most time in front of the net, and the Pens didn't have a ton of chances. Odd to see, it'll be worth watching to see if that is used next time.
  • Maatta played a good game, as did the team as a whole. After falling down 1-0 early in the 2nd period, they rallied to start scoring a bunch of goals.
  • Fitting on a night to honor the '09 team, that the 4 of  5 remaining active Pens all shined. Fleury stopped 28/30 for the win, Crosby had 2 assists and Kunitz+Letang each chipped in a goal. Ironically enough it would be only 2009 Conn Smythe winner Malkin that didn't end up on the scoreboard.