Same skaters and lines from yesterday for Pittsburgh, with the only change being in net with Casey DeSmith getting in there on the back-to-back.
Almost time for hockey.#LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/Xijhm3DyYs— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 26, 2023
The visiting Tampa Bay Lightning are lining up with this group.
How we stack up tonight in Pittsburgh! #TBLvsPIT pic.twitter.com/YBcsOJFuZw— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 26, 2023
It’s another quality start for the Penguins, who own the puck early and get all of the first handful of shots on goal. And it leads to the first shot in the goal. Jeff Petry works the puck over to Marcus Pettersson who fires it in from distance and Drew O’Connor puts a tip on it to go by Brian Elliott. 1-0 Pens early.
Deflection perfection from Drew O'Connor pic.twitter.com/opDKg18rP9— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 26, 2023
Some bad luck strikes for Pittsburgh, a clearing attempt goes off the referee and right to Zach Bogosian. Bogo fires a heavy shot on net that DeSmith stops, but it then riccochets off Anthony Cirelli’s leg and flutters into the net. 1-1 game.
Anthony Cirelli ties it for the Lightning pic.twitter.com/5QiE0XHw3J— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 26, 2023
The following shift, with Tampa gathering momentum, Pat Maroon takes an offensive zone penalty to award the Pens the first power play of the night. The Pens get a couple of looks at the net, but just 23 seconds into the power play, Rickard Rakell hooks Cirelli and ends that. After Sidney Crosby gets a chance on the 4v4 and doesn’t score, but Nikita Kucherov does. Kucherov shovels the puck towards DeSmith, who stops it but again leaves a rebound. Bad move, Kucherov returns it to sender and knocks the puck back in. 2-1 Tampa.
Welcome to the 7️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ point club, Kuch!— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) February 26, 2023
Bally Sports+ is a new option for watching Lightning games. Learn more here ➡️ https://t.co/Qd5xnvaL8E@TBLightning | #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/C03Em8jFEj
Shots end up 12-10 Pens in the opening frame, but a couple of bounces aren’t in their favor and they’re down 2-1 on the scoreboard.
Malkin goes to the box for a penalty, but it ends out working out. When Pittsburgh kills it, Josh Archibald sends a home run pass up for Geno. Terrible awareness and puck management by Tampa leads to a clean breakaway. Malkin measures Elliott, then quickly snaps a low shot by him. 2-2 game.
GENO BEAST MODE!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2023
Out of the box and on the board! pic.twitter.com/KocujSsA6F
Tampa is the next to go to the penalty box, and the Pens get a power play goal. Elliott turns the puck over and before you know it, Jake Guentzel makes a backhand pass to Sidney Crosby for a slam dunk. 3-2 Pens are back in front.
70 points for Sidney Crosby!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2023
Crosby becomes the first active player, and 14th player in NHL history to record 13 or more 70-point campaigns. pic.twitter.com/ioA1tNr4Cq
That Crosby goal was the floodgates opening. Danton Heinen makes a really nice keep in the zone (Kasperi Kapanen could never lol) and that leads to Pettersson slinging a shot intentionally wide of the net from afar. The puck slides by Elliott and presents Teddy Blueger with a wide open net. And for the first time in 33 games, Blueger puts his name on the (goal) scoring sheet. 4-2 Pens.
Coach Sullivan on Blueger's scoring slump before tonight: "Confidence is such a big part of sports... Confidence comes and goes - it's fleeting. The good news is, you can get it back as fast as you lose it. It starts with a good play and you can build."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2023
We're building, folks! pic.twitter.com/2qnIrdlsAk
With Tampa on their heels, in comes Big Jeff Carter for the knockout punch 30 seconds later. Rickard Rakell does well to win the puck off the boards and pass back for Kris Letang. Letang makes an awesome play going cross-ice to find Carter. And, hey, give Carter credit he had time and space and used it to absolutely wire the puck to the top of the net. 5-2 Pens.
BIG JEFF CARTER GIVES PITTSBURGH THE BIG 5-2 LEAD! pic.twitter.com/bjwGfa2Mfw— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2023
The rout is on and 47 seconds later the Pens keep pouring it on. Heinen again does a great job down low along the wall to tie the puck up until Evgeni Malkin can come in. Malkin snaps a centering pass out for Jason Zucker, who goes to the backhand and lifts the puck to the tippy top of the net with a great finish. 6-2, Tampa doesn’t know whether to cry or wind their watches.
BACKHAND. BAR DOWN. BEAUTIFUL.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2023
Tonight, the Penguins are unstoppable. pic.twitter.com/9euNxOdNCp
And five seconds before the period ends, for good measure, Brian Dumoulin tacks on his very first goal of the season. Doesn’t look like Elliott picks up the long-range shot through traffic, he’s totally flustered and completely falling apart at this point. 7-2 Pens.
DUMOUL-IN THE NET!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2023
Which goal has been your favorite tonight? pic.twitter.com/fA2ARAmBWQ
Unbelievable period for Pittsburgh, they score six goals — including five in the final 4:32. Tampa is in shambles, almost everything Elliott did proved to be wrong and the puck was ending up in their net in rapid succession. With the Lightning also on the back-to-back, they didn’t want to use their starter who played last night, leaving Elliott in there to weather the storm.
Josh Archibald takes a slashing penalty with 13:17 to go, and Tampa’s elite players strike. Kucherov from the wall makes a quick pass to Brayden Point in the bumper spot right in the slot and Point has a clean finish. 7-3 game with 12:03 remaining.
The Brayden Point continues @TBLightning | #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/9mriNztsD9— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) February 27, 2023
The rest of the game ticks away and it’s a big win for the Pens.
- In a game earlier in the season, we knocked Mike Sullivan for not using a timeout and the game spiraling out of control on him in route to a loss. Same thing happened to Jon Cooper and Tampa in the second. It was understandable why he was bound to not change goalies after playing yesterday, but why didn’t he try to break the momentum after the third, fourth or fifth goal of the period for Pittsburgh? Might not have helped, but that’s one of those NHL coaching tendencies that doesn’t make a lot of sense from the outside looking in.
- As I wrote in the Hot Take column last week, usually when the Pens’ #1 PP scores a goal, either Crosby or Malkin is within a stick-length of the net. That happened to night on Crosby’s goal from in close in the second period.
- Heinen’s play on the sequence that led to the Blueger goal might go forgotten in the big scheme of things, but I guarantee it will win some kudos from the coaches. He made a similar play on the Zucker goal as well with strong wall play and winning contested pucks. It was joked about in the above section but is actually a valid point that “strong wall play” and “winning contested pucks” have never, even been written about Kasperi Kapanen’s game. Heinen might not be the full-time answer on the third line, but he fits in a lot better.
- Who had goals from Teddy Blueger, Jeff Carter AND Brian Dumoulin in the same game on their bingo cards? If so, you’re lying. Great for them though and hopefully it helps with some confidence. Add in the O’Connor goal and the lower lines were dangerous and productive. Kick in the butt from the psychological effect of the Kapanen move confirmed? Might just be. The absolute stale looking mix needed a shake up of some sorts.
- On Dumoulin’s goal late in the second, the Pens had the “two headed monster” configuration of 87+71 out there for a late o-zone draw. While already up 6-2. It helped create a goal. Love that aggression and keeping the pedal to the metal by Mike Sullivan in that situation. This team needs to be stoked like that in these times where they seem so fragile, and despite already being up way big on the scoreboard, given the time left that was a smart move.
- The Pens just make for a bad matchup for Tampa. Pittsburgh have now won four out of the last five matchups, and out-scored them by a combined 25-13 along the way (shoutout Bob Grove).
- Over the past few games, the Malkin line has been outstanding. Starting with the big guy driving everything up the middle. Zucker is always energy and effort, you know you’ll get that. Rust is Rust. But Malkin has been really special lately. It’s been nice for them to peak and dominate lately because it seems like the Crosby line has receded a little. Surely in a few games that will reverse, but for now, Malkin is special to watch out there with the groove he has gotten into.
- That said, these teams meet again on Thursday, and that will be a much tougher mountain to climb when seeing Andrei Vasilevskiy and not Brian Elliott. The Pens have totally mastered Elliott.
Two wins in a row freshen things up for the Pens, but now they’re on the road for the next three. In this tough climate, they can’t sit back at this point and have plenty of work to keep getting at. But, after the season looked perilously close to shaking apart on them just a few days ago, Pittsburgh completes an encouraging weekend with two victories as they move onto trade deadline week.