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Penguins/Lightning Recap: Thunderstruck Pens fall behind, can’t catch up, lose 4-2

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The Penguins have some chances but fail on a long 5v3 power play and fall 4-2 to the Lightning

NHL: FEB 06 Penguins at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Lineups

The Penguins are the same as last game, down to Matt Murray back in the cage.

First period

It was an exceptionally choppy period with 35 faceoffs. And seemingly half were icing calls as the teams alternated flipping pucks in from deep past everyone.

The Pens get a few chances early but can’t score. They give up the first goal when Mikhail Sergachev fires and the puck changes direction off a Pens player’s stick and skips in past Murray. 1-0 Lightning .

Tampa goes to their struggling power play when Zach Aston-Reese takes an offensive zone tripping penalty, but Pittsburgh kills it off. The Lightning’s PP looks pretty good though with puck movement and they definitely won’t be cold forever.

After Pittsburgh kills the penalty, putting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice together backfires after an errant Crosby pass leads to a 2-on-1 against. And it wasn’t a pretty one as Chad Ruhwedel watches a Steven Stamkos pass saucer right past him, then Ruhwedel is left well in the dust as Brayden Point zooms by and lays it back over for Stammer to bury past a sprawling Murray who was left out to dry there. 2-0.

The Pens’ get their first power play late in the first when Cedric Paquette (lowkey one of the biggest dirtbags in the game) cross-checks Crosby from behind for no reason.

However, Pittsburgh can’t use that to get back into the game because Patric Hornqvist takes an offensive zone tripping penalty with 10 seconds left in the period.

Shots in the first are 16-10 Tampa. Icings are a million to a million a piece, approximately.

Second period

The period starts as a 4v4 due to carryover of penalties and a group of Crosby-Malkin-Kris Letang - Justin Schultz all do great and hold puck possession and get a few looks on net, but none beat Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After it cycles through, Hornqvist draws a penalty to send the Pens to their second PP of the night, got some zone time but fail to score and push their mark to 0 for 8 in this game and last against Washington.

Game continues on, Crosby dekes the puck nicely through a defender but...passes it. Oy.

A bit later a Tampa player splits the Pens’ defense and gets a breakaway and it’s...big, slow defenseman Braydon Coburn? This game is drunk. (Murray stops him).

The Pens do get on the board. Letang makes a nice play to get the puck to Hornqvist, who basically centers it for Malkin who is cutting to the net. The puck is still airborne, hits Malkin’s knee and jumps right into the net. A fortunate bounce/direction but one the Pens will take.

The Lightning get that goal back just 32 seconds later to make their lead 3-1. A favorable Tampa bounce springs them on an odd man rush and Anthony Cirelli takes the shot that goes off the inside of the post and into the net.

Game stays weird, Cirelli gets the puck all alone in front of the net (as Jack Johnson cuts behind the net, for reasons only known to him) and Cirelli’s about to swing to his forehand and put the puck in and Murray just trips him with his stick. In a matter of speaking that’s one way to stop a goal as a goalie, but not a legal one. Tampa gets their third power play.

Pens have gone to their super-loaded line with Malkin-Crosby- Bryan Rust together to try and get something going. They don’t.

Shots in the second were 10-9 PIT, and it was the Pens who had all of the period’s first seven SOG. But any momentum they were building was clearly cut to a halt when Cirelli answered Malkin’s goal on the following shift.

Third period

But as the Pens do, they keep on pushing. Hornqvist creates a 4v4 situation in a post-whistle scrum where he gets chippy and takes some abuse and goes to the box. And Pittsburgh strikes on that 4v4, with Malkin using that extra space on the ice to corral an errant Tampa pass attempt and go up the ice. Malkin carries it all the way, circles and finds John Marino who strikes for his fifth goal of the season and cut Tampa’s lead to 3-2.

Injury scare moment for Murray, who gets bowled over in his crease by Victor Hedman. Hedman had Rust defending him but sure didn’t try to get off the path taking him straight into Murray though. Murray collects himself after a whistle and is able to stay in the game.

The Pens get a third crack at a power play, and....(cricket noises). Actually worse than just being uneventful, Cirelli gets the best chance while shorthanded all alone on Murray who makes a big save to at least keep his team within one goal.

Almost as soon as that ends, Pittsburgh gets a fourth power play when Hornqvist draws his second of the night getting high-sticked by Sergachev. The Pens parlay it into a 5v3 power play for 1:34 when Alex Killorn accidentally skies a clearing attempt and takes a delay of game penalty. Rust gets a really good shot at the very tail end of it that hits Crosby with an empty net but Pittsburgh just can’t get it to go.

Jared McCann takes a tripping penalty. Bad goes to worse when a Stamkos shot gets deflected and smacks Marino in the face/visor and drops him and takes him out of the game.

The Pens pull Murray and don’t get much going, Nikita Kucherov is there to finish it off with the empty netter. 4-2

Closing thoughts

Tough sledding. Neither team could really get clean breakouts, which led to a lot of hopeful passes, a lot of which didn’t connect and went for icing. What you would expect for two powerful teams clashing and not backing down but the lack of flow and fluidity in this game really stood out with all the contested passes and stops in play.

Not enough from the forwards. Early in the 3rd period, as Steve Mears in the AT&T Broadcast pointed out, the defensemen (15) more shots than all the forwards did (10) at the time of Marino’s third period goal. While there’s nothing wrong with going low-to-high and changing depths of attack on a Vezina-caliber goalie, it’s tough to out-score a team as strong as Tampa getting very little from the forwards. Overall the forwards got just 13 SOG of the team’s 31 total. With that much power play time too, it just wasn’t enough. Speaking of...

Power play stinks again. The power play went cold at the wrong time, now a combined 0-11 in the last two games and 0-5 in this one is a tough . That caught up with the Pens on a night like this one, when a goal would have gone a long way to helping change the course of the game. Having 1:34 of a 5v3 with 8:30 to go in the game while down by a goal was the back-breaker and a very obvious golden opportunity that went by the wayside in a situation where a team just can’t come up empty on the road, late in the game, against a great opponent.

The potential loss of Marino, depending on how badly the puck damaged his face, hurts more than the result of a loss so overall it was a tough one to take. The Pens will at least get to see Tampa again soon next week to try and redeem themselves, but it will figure to be a tough one then too. Next up before that, the upstart Florida Panthers team on Saturday night.