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Recap: Pens get stuck in the storm, fall 5-1 to Tampa

The Lightning strike (get it?) often in the second period and out-pace the Penguins by a score of 5-1

NHL: OCT 26 Lightning at Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins use the same lines and lineup as last game, a rarity this season.

First period

These pesky Penguins are deep under the skin of the Tampa Bay Lightning. At first, Sam Lafferty runs Ryan McDonagh from behind. Surprisingly, Lafferty isn’t called for a penalty and McDonagh takes justice into his own hands by bloodying the nose of Lafferty in a scrum. Lafferty gets two minutes for roughing, McDonagh draws four minutes of penalties on a double minor rough, a bit lucky for the Pens to not get extra for the Lafferty hit.

And on Lafferty’s next shift, he’s jumped by Corey Perry for a short fight with Perry looking to avenge McDonagh.

A bit later, it would be Evan Rodrigues drawing a penalty. Rodrigues maybe, sort of slapped at goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy when Vasy had the puck. Others don’t tend to like that and Mikhail Sergachev stood above Rodrigues menacingly until Rodrigues went to get up and Sergachev cross-checked him to the neck to take another penalty.

Later still, Vasilevskiy got a quick whistle when a ref lost sight of the puck that never went in and a Penguin deposited it in the net slightly after said whistle. The Lightning really didn’t take kindly to that, creating a scrum where Brock McGinn ended up being the only player sent to the box.

So, yeah, the gritty Pens just doing everything they can to claw at Tampa and keep them off kilter and more worried about the physical stuff than the scoring goals stuff, which, hey, you gotta take as a Pittsburgh team that has to rely on effort and not skill right now.

Shots in the first end up 13-11 Tampa, early on they took a lot of outside shots that Tristan Jarry saw all the way and was able to eat up. The best scoring chance probably came from a Rodrigues power play shot that was drilled off the cross-bar and then a post on a nice shot attempt.

Ugly period, but maybe that also is a pretty one these days.

Second period

First shift of the second, the Lightning get some of that open ice that eluded them early and cash in on the rush. Brayden Point gets a really nice tip pass from Alex Killorn to leave John Marino flat-footed and is off to the races. Brian Dumoulin takes away the backdoor pass option so Point just goes backhand and flips the puck top shelf by Jarry. 1-0 TB just 31 seconds into the second.

The Pens get a sustained shift of great pressure and zone time from their fourth line, but Vasilevskiy stops Brian Boyle from in front. Immediately following that, Tampa gets a change and finds more space after winning back a stretch pass attempt from the Pens. This time it’s Ondrej Palat scoring on Jarry on the rush. 2-0 Pens.

The very next drop of the puck, Tampa gets it going again, scoring just 10 seconds later. Steven Stamkos skates the puck for a bit a lays off a pass for McDonagh to step into, and step into it he does, blasting a third goal in for the Lightning. And what looked about two minutes earlier like it could be a 1-1 game, just swung to be 3-0 TB.

Mike Sullivan uses his timeout to settle things down, and to their credit, the Pens snap back and get back at it, trapping all five Tampa players for 2+ minute shifts in their own end, resulting in an exhaustion penalty from Victor Hedman. The Pens get zone time, but can’t cash in.

Shots in the second are 12-9 Pittsburgh, but it’s Tampa who strikes three times in the period to take what feels like a commanding 3-0 lead into the second intermission.

Third period

Sleepy period, it takes the Pens 10+ minutes to get a shot on goal, and even then it’s a hopeless shot by Kasperi Kapanen from near the right wall that Vasilevskiy would get in his sleep.

With 3:30 to go, the Pens pull Jarry for an extra attacker, because, hey why not. Sergachev scores quickly on it to make it 4-0, though.

Alex Barre-Boulet takes a penalty with 2:32 left, so the Pens pull Jarry again to get a 6v4 power play, because again, why not? And the Pens at least spoil the shutout, with Jason Zucker there to clean up the rebound of a Jake Guentzel shot. 4-1 with 2:17 left on Zucker’s third goal of the season.

Pittsburgh gets the puck and the goalie pulls continue, but this time it doesn’t pay off when Alex Killorn gets around Matheson and has an easy tuck. 5-1 with 1:05 left.

And that’s the score when time runs out.

Some thoughts

  • The Pens’ identity was on display in the first — forecheck really hard, play to the echo of the whistle (and maybe sometimes just a little beyond it). Tampa was understandably miffed and seemed more reactionary to the Pens’ intensity and hard play.
  • Game turned in the second period in a way the Pens just don’t have the horses to keep up with what players like Point, Palat and Stamkos can do.
  • Pittsburgh went 0-for-3 on the power play, couldn’t take advantage of chances to get back in the game. Big missed opportunity to make something happen, but never got too close (Rodrigues’ post aside).
  • If there’s a positive to take away from this game: Brian Dumoulin missed part of the first period but was able to return. Hopefully it’s not an issue moving forward, that would be about the worst thing.
  • Still, one regulation loss in the first six games of the season with this level of talent available? That’s a take, even if it’s kinda meh to look at the big picture right after this game.
  • Kind of an unfortunate regression game. Drew O’Connor was getting all the luck and good fortune on Saturday, hit the post in the second. Vasilevskiy did the rest, having their number on scramble plays and shots from in tight. Tampa had not had a lead in any game this season (their wins were in OT) and a team this good is going to get there, just happened to be tonight.

Tough one for the Pens, who gave it a great effort when there was a chance but come up short in this one. Pittsburgh tried to muddy the track to equalize the Tampa skill, but the Lightning players weren’t to be denied forever and broke through. The Pens get a day off before meeting the red hot Flames on Thursday.