-Greetings on a chilly late Febrary day in Pittsburgh. It's in the low 30s, a bit snowy and cloudy. A kind of raw day as far as the elements are concerned.
-The Lightning comes to town in first place of the Southeast Division. Some changes in the goaltending department aside, this is mostly the same Lightning team you're accustomed too. The stars - Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos - drive the show.
-Tampa Bay has an odd mix of youngsters and veterans on its roster. Rookies like Cory Conacher and Alexander Killorn are filling top nine roles along with the likes of Lecavalier and St. Louis.
-The Lightning's top four defenders are as good as any top four you'll find in the NHL. The top pairing is Victor Hedman and Sami Salo. Hedman, a former No. 2 overall pick, is a large man who is still developing a multi-faceted game. Salo, while injury prone, has one of the best point shots in the NHL. The second paring is Matt Carle, on of the most underrated defensemen in the NHL who can fill just about any role and Eric Brewer, another injury-prone veterans who can also fill a variety of roles. When healthy, any of these blue liners can log upwards of 25 minutes a night.
-That leaves a pretty suspect bottom pairing of Marc-Andre Bergeron, who is pretty much all offense, and Brian Lee, a borderline NHL player.
-The Penguins have switched the lineup tonight with Evgeni Malkin sidelined. James Neal moves up to the right wing on the first line while Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis move to the second line. Dustin Jeffrey gets bumped up to the third line while Joe Vitale returns to the lineup.
-Given Sutter's defensvie chops, Dan Bylsma talked about using the second line in a pretty prominent defensive match-up role. It'll be interesting to see how much Beau Bennett is used in that role. The could switch Matt Cooke in on that line depending on the situation.
-If you like power plays, this is your game. The Penguins have scored in 10 consecutive games and are third in the NHL at 27.4 percent while the Lightning is eighth at 23.2.
-Anders Lindback gets the start in Tampa Bay's net. He started the season hot having won five out of his first six games but cooled off five of his last seven.
-Tonight's IceTime cover is a tad more confrontational than usual:
-Earlier today, the Penguins held a meet and greet with military veterans in the team's dressing room:
-A family of Lightning fans. Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Martin St. Louis and Dwayne Roloson:
-Jersey Foul of the Night: Zdeno Chara:
-Beau Bennett Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shersey:
-Keven Veilleux Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:
-The pride of District 5, Charlie Conway Mighty Ducks:
-Jersey of the Night: Sidney Crosby Dartmouth Subways:
-The Penguins wore camouflage jerseys during warm-ups to honor the military. The jerseys will be auctioned off later for charity. They will be wearing their Frankenstein mish/mash blue jerseys for the game.
-During warm-ups, the great Joe Vitale sprayed Root Sports' Dan Potash with ice:
-The Penguins' starters are Matt Cooke, Dustin Jeffrey, Matt Cooke, Simon Despres, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Zach Boychuk and Evgeni Malkin.
-The Lightning's starters are Alexander Killorn, Tom Pyatt, Nate Thompson, Victor Hedman, Sami Salo and Anders Lindback.
-Its scratches are Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Brian Lee and Brendan Mikkelson.
-Keith Aulie is in the lineup in place of Lee.
-Jeff Jimerson blows the roof off this dump:
18:58: Off a feed from Lecavlier in the left wing corner, Benoit Pouliot swipes a wrister from the slot wide to the right of the cage.
18:44 No Malkin. No problem. The "Hey Song" is played. After a turnover by Pouliot on the left wing wall of his own zone, Kunitz deals a pass to Crosby deep on the left wing of the offensive zone. Crosby takes puck deep into the left circle and lifts sneaky wrister over the right shoulder of Lindback and into the cage. That's an inexcusable goal for someone as big as Lindback (6-foot-6) to allow.
18:31: Cory Conacher snaps off a wrister from the slot. Fleury kicks it out with his right leg. Stamkos tries to poke the rebound in but is held off by Martin. Fleury stretches out and covers the puck.
17:29: A slapper by Killorn is rejected by Fleury.
15:50: After some strong work down low by Crosby, he deals a pass to Neal in the left cirlce. Neal pumps a wrister on net. Lindback fights it off.
13:57: Letang has a puck stolen by the ever dangerous St. Louis at the right point of the Penguins' zone. St. Louis motors in off the right wing boards and flings a wrister right into Fleury who kicks it out. Letang owes Fleury some poutine.
13:01: Challenging Engelland, the fleet Conacher races into the zone and from the slot flings a backhander which Fleury bats away.
12:45: The Penguins get a little lucky and cash in. Kunitz controls the puck at the right half wall and deals to Martin racing into the zone. Martin cranks a one-timer a bit wide of the cage. Crosby re-directs slightly. Lindback lunges out a bit to glove it but bumps into Salo in the process. The puck comes loose on the the back of his left leg. As Kunitz crashes in, Lindback accidentally kicks the puck into his net with his right skate. Crosby gets credit for the goal. It's his 636th career point, matching Rick Kehoe for third-most in franchise history. Technically, Kehoe (320) is still in third place based on having more goals (232) than Crosby but that shouldn't be an issue too much longer. Neal and Martin get assists. Not sure how Neal got an assist on that. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-0.
10:14: Pyatt has two wristers blocked by Orpik.
9:13: After some strong work in the right wing corner by Jeffrey, he deals a pass to Kennedy in the right circle. Kennedy guns a slapper on net. Lindback battles it away.
8:21: After a turnover by the Penguins in the offensive zone, Stamkos picks up the loose puck and races up the right wing. he challenges Letang one-on-one and loses the puck on a poke check. Heck of a play by Letang.
6:50: Martin chucks a wrister on net from the left point which hits Aulie in front.
4:26: Letang is in deep on the right wing and deals a pass to the slot. Pouliot intercepts the pass but loses it immediately to Kunitz who snaps off a wrister right on net. Lindback kicks it out. Pouliot owes Lindback a beer.
3:14: Martin wires a slapper from the left poitn wide to the far side.
2:31: Killorn tries to battle Matt Niskanen for a puck behidn the net and is thumped to the ice by Niskanen.
1:00: After another turnover by the Lightning in its own zone, Dpuis chips a little shot from a bad angle on the left wing. Lindback holds it out and covers the rebound as Matt Cooke hovers around the crease.
0:33: Occupy Paul Martin. Martin forces a turnover by Stamkos at the left point in the Penguins' zone and deals a pass up ice. Cooke leads a three-on-two rush up the right wing and deals a pass to Martin trailing a bit in the left circle. Martin deals it back to Cooke who chips a wrister into the legs of Lindback. Lindback kicks it out to the front of the crease. Martin is right there to punch in the garbage. What an effort all around by Martin. Cooke gets the only assist. Martin could make a case to get an assist on his own goal. The "Hey Song" is double shifting. Penguins 3-0.
0:29: On the ensuing faceoff, former Penguin Adam Hall tries to spark his team and drops the gloves with the great Joe Vitale at center ice. They lockout and start swinging wildly. Most of the punches miss the mark and they sort of swing each other around. The fight ends near the Tampa Bay Blue line with Vitale (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) ragdolling the larger Hall (6-foot-2 212 pounds). Hall's a tough customer too. Impressive display of strength by Vitale.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Lightning 0.
-What a period for the Penguins. We can't recall a more one-sided first period in the Penguins' favor this season. They controlled play most of the period in the Lightning zone and had the bulk of quality scoring chances.
-What a period for Paul Martin. He's cleaning up everything in his own zone and he getting involved on the offense.
-Think about this, with 14 points, Paul Martin has as many point as Alex Ovechkin.
-Sidney Crosby? He's kind of good.
-The Penguins' bottom two lines had a strong period just being pests to the Lightning. Both groups were in deep pressuring with a forecheck and causing plenty of turnovers.
-The Lightning's stars were pretty quiet. Lecavalier set up Pouliot with an early chance and Stamkos had one nice chance off a turnover by Letang, but there was little sustained offensive pressure from Tampa Bay.
-Shots are tied, 10-10.
-Crosby leads the game with three shots.
-Lecavalier, St. Louis and Conacher each lead the Lightning with two.
-Letang leads the game with 8:23 of ice time.
-Brewer leads the Lightning with 7:52.
-The Lightning leads in faceoffs, 14-12 (54 percent).
-The great Joe Vitale is 5 for 5 (100 percent).
-Lecavalier and Stamkos are each 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Engelland and Orpik each led the game with two blocked shots.
20:00: The Lightning pulled Lindback in favor of former Penguin Mathieu Garon. Garon's biggest contribution to the Penguins may have been making this face during the 2009 postseason:
18:59: Chasing after a chip-in, Conacher is leveled from the side by Letang and crashes into the end boards. Oof.
18:41: Racing by Cooke on the right wing, Stamkos tries to cut towards the net but a nifty play by Orpik knocks the puck off his stick
18:23: And the Lightning gets back int this game. From the left wing wall, Stamkos flings a cross-ice pass to Brewer in the right circle. Brewer flings a backhander on net. Fleury kicks it out with is right skate. The puck flutters up and hits Orpik in the crease and deflects into the net. That's an unlucky hop for Fleury but the lightning went to the net and cashed in. Perhaps that late fight and goaltending switch has given the Lightning a (pardon the pun) spark. Stamkos and Killorn get assists. Penguins 3-2.
17:31: Simon Despres is nabbed for holding Bergeron . Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, Orpik and Martin take the ice.
17:09: Bergeron chases after a puck dumped in to the right wing corner of his own zone and his hit from behidn by Adams. officials quickly call boarding. Not sure about that one. Adams hit him from behidn but didn't extend his arms. Either way, the Penguins face a five-on three for 1:35. A tough spot against his dangerous team. Cooke, Sutter and Orpik take the ice.
17:02: Stamkos snaps off a wrister from above the right circle. Cooke blocks.
16:46: And just like that, Tampa bay cashes in. Purcell takes a pass above the left circle, fakes a shot and deals a subtle pass to the always dangerous Stamkos who is set up in his office in the left circle. Stamkos cranks a one-timer which blows by Fleury's blocker on the near side. There might not be a better one-timer from in tight like that since Brett Hull. Purcell and St. Louis get assists. The Lightning still has 1:46 of a one-man advantage remaining. Penguins 3-2.
15:06: The Adams minor is killed. The Lightning didn't generate much with that second chance.
12:22: Brewer chops a one-timer from the right point. Fleury holds it off despite having Lecavalier and Pouliot make contact. No call.
11:21: Conacher chips and chases a puck up the left wing wall. As he chases after the puck, Letng slams him to the ice with a shoulder check.
10:27: Crosby takes a pass in the neutral zone, races pass the Tampa Bay blue line and rips a sizzler on net. Garon snags it.
8:57: The Penguins get their first power play of the game as Brewer is nabbed for interfering with Bennett at the Tampa Bay blue line. Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Martin and Letang take the ice.
8:18: From the left half wall, Crosby chips a puck into the crease. Kunitz in front and re-directs it on net. Garon holds it out.
8:15: The Penguins get their own two-man advantage as Hall holds up Kunitz on a faceoff in the Tampa Bay zone. The Penguisn will have a five-on-three for 1:18. Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Bennett and Letang take the ice. Bennett is on the left point.
8:02: Crosby whacks a one-timer from the right half wall over the cage.
7:40: Welcome to the NHL Beau Bennett. Letang makes a wonder play to keep a puck in the offensive zone at the left point and deals a pass to Crosby on right half wall, Crosby spots Bennett in the left circle and distributes the puck to him. Bennett smacks it in a one-timer by the right skate of Garon for his first NHL goal. Crosby and Letang et assists. Crosby passes up Rick Kehoe for third-most points in franchise history. Jaromir Jagr is next at 1,079. Heck of a play by Letang to keep that puck in. The "Hey Song' is a heck of a song. The Penguins still have 1:15 left on a one-man advantage. Crosby, Neal, Martin, Letang take the ice. Penguins 4-2.
6:39: After a sloppy play by the Penguins in the neutral zone, Nate Thompson races in on a breakaway and attacks the net. He snaps off a wrister which Fleury fights off. Big save.
5:40: Off a pass from the right wall by Lecavalier, St. Louis has a chance in tight to the right of the cage but Fleury holds it out.
5:07: After a turnover by Adams behind his own net, St. Louis tries to jam in a forehand shot but is held off by Fleury. Adams owes Fleury a beer. Attendance is announced as 18,632. It is the team's 263rd consecutive sellout.
3:20: A wrister by Carle is rejected by Fleury.
1:39: After some sloppy play in the Penguins' zone, Hall has a chance in tight but can't get a clean shot off.
1:24: Vitale races after a puck in the Tampa Bay zone on the right wing and whacks a strong feed to the slot for Glass who re-directs it on net. Garon kicks it out. Big save for Tampa Bay.
0:14: Niskanen booms a one-timer form the lft point. Garon eats it up.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Lightning 2.
-What an exciting period of hockey that was. The Lightning (pardon the pun) stormed back to pull within one goal. The Penguins attacked, attacked and attacked back until they got one back. That was plain, simple fun.
-We have to imagine Dan Bylmsa might give his team some grief over the rotten start to the period. The lack of discipline led to Tampa Bay getting its second goal.
-Marc-Andre Fleury turned it up that period and he had to. The Lightning was able to generate better scoring chances that period and Fleury was up to the challenge for the most part.
-The Penguins power play has scored in 11 consecutive games now.
-Letang has had an up and down game. He's had a few turnovers which led to scoring chances but he's been physical as all heck in his own zone. And his play to keep the puck in the offensive zone which led to Bennett's goal was splendid.
-Mathieu Garon has been strong. He's put his team in a position to come back in this contest.
-The Lightning has a 20-17 lead in shots.
-Crosby leads the game with five.
-St. Louis leads the Lightning with four.
-Letang leads the game with 18:34 of ice time.
-Hedman leads the Lighting with 15:43.
-The Lightning has a 27-20 advantage in faceoffs (57 percent).
-Lecavalier is 11 for 15 (73).
-Vitale is 6 for 6 (100 percent).
-Deryk Engelland, Cooke, Adams, Orpik, Keith Aulie, Matt Carle and Bergeron each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:43: Crosby enters the offensive zone on the right wing, cuts the slot, spins and deals a backhanded pass to Kunitz in the right circle. Kunitz re-directs the puck off the left post. That was pretty even if it was a miss.
19:06: Pouliot lifts a pedestrian wrister from the right wing wall. Fleury gloves it easliy.
18:06: Jeffrey flings a wrister from the left circle. Garon eats it up.
16:45: Not so fast. Stamkos snaps off a wrister from the left circle. The puck deflects to the left half wall where Hedman drives a one-timer. It hits Vitale in the slot and deflects right to Conacher on the back door who deflects it in with his body. An nice ugly goal. The Lightning pulls within one goal. Hedman and Stamkos get assists. Penguins 4-3.
16:22: Hedman snap off a wrister from the left half wall. Fleury boots it out.
14:45: Killorn races behind the cage off the left wing, emerges in the right circle and whips a wrister on net. Fleury fights it off.
13:32: Niskanen chips a puck from the left point into the left wing corner of the Tampa Bay zone. Carle goes to play it and is plastered by a shoulder check from Kunitz. Oof.
13:18: Richard Panik gets sprung loos on a breakaway with Letang chasing him. He moves in on net and tries to goes forehand but Fleury holds it out. Tough save.
11:53: Afer Dupuis forces a turnover by Lecavlier in the Tampa Bay zone, Sutter takes the puck and rips a wrister from above the left circle off the cross bar.
9:10: Purcell flings a wrister on net from the left half wall. Fleury kicks it out to the right cirlce. Lecavalier is there but punches a backhander on the rebound wide.
4:57: After a few minutes of stagnant play, Purcell skates in offsides.
4:13: Kunitz leads a rush up the left wing on a two-on-two. He appears to attempt a wrister but Pouliot chases him down and forces a turnover. Nice backcheck by Pouliot.
3:19: Jeffrey chips a puck into the offensive zone. Brewer and Cooke give chase. Brewer bails out and appears to be avoiding Cooke. Cooke doesn't even really throw a check though. Looked like Brewer is weary of Cooke's reputation.
2:19: Lecavalier enters the offensive zone no teh right in and puts a wriste ron net. Fleury kicks it out. Lecavalier has a chance with the rebound in the slot but can't get a clean stick on it. Great stick check by Kunitz to prevent that shot.
1:57: After an icing call, the Penguins call a timeout to get a breather with the faceoff in their own zone.
1:38: Using Carle as a screen Jeffrey lifts a wrister from the right circle. Garon fights it off.
1:14: Garon is pulled for an extra attacker.
1:06: Hedman has clean chance in the right circle but sails a wrister wide to the far side.
0:51: Sutter control the puck on the right wing wall of the neutral zone and hits Cooke with a cross-ice pass in front of the Tampa Bay bench. Cooke air mails the puck into the open net for one of us:
Sutter and Letang get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 5-3.
0:45: Garon is pulled for an extra ttacker again.
0:38: Sending Garon's absence, Fleury pulls in a dump-in attempt behidn his cage and flings a puck down ice hoping for an empty net goal but the Lightning stop the puck at its own blue line.
0:14: Lecavlier rips a wrister form the slot. Fleury kicks it out.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 5, Lightning 3.
-First things first. Dan Bylsma had some less than stellar news after the game when he revealed that Evgeni Malkin was diagnosed with a concussion. He suffered short-term memory loss on the hit he received from Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson. His memory is returning but he will not be joining the team on it's upcoming three-game road trip.
-Regarding the game, it was a bit sloppy but that was a pretty entertaining affair. You had plenty of offense. Some tough saves, a little hitting, a fight and a pretty frantic finish. If you paid for a ticket tonight, you got your money's worth.
-Turnovers were the key to this game. The Lightning committed a ton and the Penguins capitalized. The Penguins did a marvelous job of pressuring the Lightning into bad plays with the puck and created offense with those chances. This was a vintage Dan Bylsma game from that standpoint.
-It might be a stretch to say Sidney Crosby and James Neal displayed a ton of chemistry in their first game on the same line but they didn't seem uncomfortable. Crosby first goal came on a turnover by the Lightnign at it's own blue line while his second score came on a fluky bounce into the cage. Give them a few games and we're sure they'll establish something.
-Brandon Sutter looked strong as the team's No. 2 center. As was the case with Jordan Staal, Sutter is good enough to be a No. 2 center on most NHL teams. He just happens to be behind two former MVPs on the depth chart.
-What a game for Paul Martin. He recorded a goal and an assist and was pretty strong keeping things clean in his own zone.
-Marc-Andre Fleury had a fantastic effort. The two even-strength goals he allowed came on fluky bounces and the other goal he allowed came on a five-on-three power play against Steven Stamkos, perhaps the best power-play goal scorer in hockey. Fleury earned this victory tonight.
-The Lightning looked pretty sloppy tonight. As we said ealier, it turned the puck over way too much and really couldn't generate much five-on-five outside of the occasional turnover by the Penguins. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos seemed like they were pushing things quite a bit and couldn't really generate much on their own.
-Tampa Bay's best offensive weapons were rookies Cory Conacher and Alex Killorn who seemed to create the most sustained attack offensively.
-Dustin Jeffrey showed a lot of confidence as the team's third line center. His greated value as an NHLer is his ability to fill a variety of roles. No one is going to confuse him with a Selke Trophy winner by any means, but he was more than competent as the team's third pivot tonight. He seems to have a little chemisty with Tyler Kennedy.
-Letang had a fairly up and down game. He was sloppy with the puck at times but pretty efficient in his own zone when it came defending.
-Mathieu Garon ended up recording the loss but probably deserved a better fate. He gave his team a spark when he entered the game and was only beaten once on a five-on-three power play.
-Beau Bennett scored his first career goal. He became the 457th player to score a regular season goal for the Penguins.
-As we mentioned before, Crosby (637 points) passed up Rick Kehoe (636) for the third most points in franchise history. Rest well Chico.
-It's going to take a while for Crosby to surpass Jaromir Jagr (1,079) for second place.
-Matt Cooke (137 points) passed up Stu Barne (136) for 60th place.
-Neal passed up Craig Simpson for 79th place. Both players have 105 points but Neal (53) has more goals than Simpson.