-Greetings on a rather pleasant late winter day in Pittsburgh. It's sunny, in the mid-30s and pretty dry. In fact most of the snow has melted.
-The Penguins assigned forward Beau Bennett to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton today. There was a immediate reaction of anger by several over the move but it appears to be a simple paper transaction. Forward Zach Boychuk was placed on waivers today but still is technically on the Penguins' roster. With Evgeni Malkin coming off injured reserve today, Bennett had to be assigned to the AHL in order to keep the Penguins' roster at the maximum of 23 players.
-Benett could very well be recalled in the short term once Boychuk's fate is determined around noon tomorrow. The Hurricanes appear very eager to reclaim him.
-Boychuk simply didn't work out. But it was a worthwhile short term experiment for the Penguins He has talent but just hasn't been able to make the transition to the NHL. For what it's worth, we found him to be a pleasant human being to deal with in his short time with the team.
-With Tampa Bay not being an overly physical team, we have to imagine Simon Despres will remain in the lineup, especially after his briliant performance against the Canadiens Saturday.
-It's amazing how things can change in a week. When the Lightning was in town just over a week ago, it was in first place of the Southeast Division and third place in the Eastern Conference. A week and change later, Tampa Bay is in third place in the division and 11th place overall in the conference.
-Stuff like this is why we love the current No. 1 through No. 8 seeding format for the postseason. We would hate to see the NHL return to divisional playoffs as is currently being considered. The changes from day to day in potential matchups is thrilling stuff.
-Hopefully for the Penguins' sake, they haf figured out some of their defensive shortcomings with were exposed Saturday. Despite its recent troubles, the Lightning can still score a ton of goals with the likes of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
-Careless Speculation Alert: Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, assistant general manager Chris MacFarland and advisor Craig Patrick, the former Penguins general manager, are in attendance tonight. Look at the Blue Jackets' roster on CapGeek.com and stab at who the Penguins are going to trade for.
-Tonight is a Student Rush game. The line for students was long:
-Alexei Kovalev has a fan in line:
-As does Alex Kovalev:
-Another No. 27, Craig Adams:
-Slight jersye foul here with Ryan Miller Team USA with a Sabres scarf:
-You don't see too many Dustin Jeffrey fans:
-The injured Paul Martin:
-EN reader Josh Allenberg spotted a rare Richard Park jersey:
Our jersey photos are lean tonight because we got caught up in a few conversations. Our apologies. Ken Wregget:
-Mario Lemieu Team Canada and Evgeni Malkin All-Star:
-With Robert Morris hosting the NCAA Tournament's Frozen Four soon, there is a display set up in the main concourse with the NCAA championship trophy:
-Jersey of the Night: Current Lightning and former Penguins left winger Ryan Malone:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Zach Boychuk, Robert Bortuzzo and Paul Martin
-The Lightning's starters are Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, Victor Hedman, Sami Salo and Mathieu Garon.
-It's scratches are Marc-Andre Bergeron and Brendan Mikkelson.
-Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Jimerson:
19:26: Aexander Killorn whacks a shots from th left point. Makr Eaton blocks it.
19:07: Neal takes a pass on the left wing, moves into the Tampa Bay zone, hustles slightly towards the creas and snaps off a wrist wide to the far side.
18:27: Cory Conacher takes a pass on the left wing, shrugs off a shoulder check from Deryk Engelland ans snaps off a wrister wide to the far side.
17:29: Carle chips a wrister from the left point wide to the far side.
16:56: Taking a pass from Matt Niskanen in the left circle, Tyler Kennedy directs a pass to Dustin Jeffrey in the slot. The timing is off and the puck doesn't connect with Jeffrey's stick.
16:15: Engeland and B.J. Crombeen battle for a puck in the left wing corner of the Penguins' zone. Engelland sends him to the ice with a shoulder check.
15:58: Pierre-Cedric Labrie takes except to Engelland's hit and they drop the gloves in the Penguins' zone. Locking up, they mostly wrestle. Englannd manages to get his right arm free and lands a few blows. Labrie lands one big right. Engelland slips and and falls to his back side and Labrie holds off as officials step in. Not a great fight by any stretch of the imagination.
15:47: The Penguins strike off an offensive zone faceoff. Crosby controls the puck int he left wing cornerhe shields the puck off a few stick checks from Stamkos who eventually loses his stick. Crosby steers off the left wing boards and deals to Kuntiz floating in the slot. Kunitz booms a one-timer which beats Garon. What an effort by Crosby. Crosby gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1-0.
14:57: Kennedy forces Matt Carle into a turnover in the Tampa Bay zone. That results in a scoring chance for Jeffrey off the left wing. Jeffrey's wrister to the near side is turned away by Garon.
12:00: Gaining the offensive zone at center point, Pascal Dupuis blasts a slapper over the cage.
11:40: A wrister by Niskanen from above the left circle is blocked in front.
11:07: Hedman chips a wrister from the left half wall which hits a stick in front.
10:45: After Neal forces Thompson into a turnover above the left circe of the Tampa Bay zone, Malkin zooms in and whips a backhander on net. Garon makes the save. There's a scramble for the reobund. Neal grips and rips it from above the left circle. Garon makes the save.
8:42: After a poor turnover by Letang in his own zone, Stamkos grips and rips a wrister from the left circle. Fleury fights it off. The rebound is skated out of danger. Letang owes Fleury some poutine after that turnover.
8:26: Brewers whacks a one-timer from the right point. It hits a skate in front.
7:58: St. Louis is pounded to the ice by Niskanen in the Penguins' left circle. Niskanen may have actually took the worse of that hit
7:08: After a turnover by Engelland in the Penguins' zone, Tom Pyatt lugs a wrister on net from the right point. FLeury fights it off.
6:31: After some cycling by the Penguins, Letang strikes a one-timer whch rings off the near post.
6:09: On delayed penalty. Kunitz rips a wrister from the left circle wide to the near side. the rebound deflects to Orpik above the left circle. He booms a slapper on net. Garon gloves it. Keith Aulie is nabbed for interference against Neal. Crosby, Neal, Malkin, Letang and Kunitz take the ice. Malkin and Letang man the points.
4:58: Malkin moves down low on the left wing and from below the goal line, he tries to deal to Kunitz on the slot. Kunitz hwacks a shot but it gets blocked. The Lightning clears the rebound out of danger.
4:04: As the Aulie minor expires, Crombeen hustles after a loose puck played up the left wing boards. He recover sit, cuts by Niskanen and tries to jam in a forehand shot but Fleury holds it out.
3:42: Sami Salo chucks a wrister on net from the left point. FLeury eats it up. Engelland and St. Louis, two ... different types of players, get into a nasty little shoving matching in the right circle. All 10 skaters join in a scrum on the right wing boards. Engelland and St. Louis each get cross checking minors. That was an odd confrontation, especially when you consider St. Louis is a former Lady Byng Trophy winner. That's only his second penalty of the season. Four on four play.
3:19: Taking a pass at the blue line, Crosby flies through the open ice and lift a wrister from the left circle. Garon eats it up.
2:36: On a give and go with Crosby, Letang sneaks in deep on the right wing and lifts a wrister on net. Garon fights it off.
1:42: Engeland and St. Louis return to play.
1:23: Purcell lugs a backhander on net from the left wing corner. Fleury holds it out. Engelland and St. Louis go at it again behind the cage but only exchange a few shoves this time before officials step in.
0:46: Lecavalier pounds a slapper from the left point. It hits a skate in front and deflects wide.
0:04: Engelland corrals a loose puck at the left point and whips it on net. Garon steers it away.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Lightning 0.
-That was a pretty clean period all around for the Penguins. They didn't have a ton of mistakes and kept the Lightning's quality of chances fairly low.
-Evgeni Malkin looks like he's skating with a purpose tonight. He's flying around the ice like the 2011-12 Evgeni Malkin. He could do some damage tonight.
-The Penguins' power play was hardly all that impressive with its only chance tonight.
-Both goaltenders looked fairly sharp that period.
Tyler Kennedy gets a lot of criticism, and justly so, but he set up Dustin Jeffrey with two scoring chances that period.
-Letang was pretty much really awesome or really bad. He had a horrible turnover to Stamkos, the best goal scorer in the league, but also created a lot of quality scoring chances for the Penguins.
-The Penguins lead in shots, 11-7.
-Letang leads the game with three.
-No one else has more than one.
-Letang leads the game with 10:29 of ice time.
-Hedman leads the Lightning with 7:47 of ice time.
-The Penguins have an 11-8 lead in faceoffs (58 percent).
-Malkin is 5 for 5 (100 percent).
-Stamkos is 4 for 7 (57 percent).
-Orpik and Eaton each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:45: Hedman is nabbed for tripping Crosby. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Letang take the ice. They'll get this power play on fresh ice.
18:38: Out of the left wing corner, Crosby deals a pass to Malkin sneaks in off the right circle. Aulie lays down to block the pass but gets juuust a piece of it. Malkin still gets the puck but has to adjust his shot a bit and can't lift it over the stretched out Garon.
18:03: Malkin winds up and booms a slapper from the left wing wide of the cage.
17:45: The Hedman minor is killed. The Penguins had a few quality chances there.
17:41: Garon appears to be laboring a bit in some discomfort. An athletic trainer runs out attend to Garon who doesn't appear to be in a great deal of pain. After a little bit of an examination, he leaves the ice and heads to the dressing room. Anders Lindback will replace him.
17:21: Stop us if you've heard this before. The Penguins allowed an opponent score in tight. Off a rush into the offensive zone, Hedman deals a pass to Stamkos positioned just above the crease. Stamkos gets positioning on Orpik and taps the puck in. Another goal from in tight and with Orpik directly involved. Not a good trend. Hedman and St. Louis get assists. Lightning 1, Penguins 1.
16:41: The Penguins nearly get it back. Sutter rushes up the left wing and backhands a pass to the crease. Tyler Kennedy rushes in on net and re-directs it on net. The puck ruls around juuuust in front on the goal line. Kennedy holds his hands up to celebrate but the puck never crosses the line. Officials immediately signal no goal.
16:01: Letang takes a pass in the left circle and cranks a shot off the near post.
15:09: Adams whips a backhander from the left circle towards the cage. Lindback smothers the puck to freeze play.
14:25: Off a turnover by the Penguins in their own zone Labrie lifts a wrister from the left circle. Fleury fights it off.
12:08: Attendance is announced as 18,656. Is the team's 264th consecutive sellout.
9:35: Letang hits Dupuis with a stretch pass from the Penguins' blue line to the Tampa Bay blue line, Dupus puts a wrister wide off the mark.
9:09: Wow. Wow. Wow. St. Louis calmly contrls the puck on the right wing and deals a pass to Aulie streaking down the slot. Aulie jabs the puck on net. FLeury reads the play and holds the puck as Killorn kind of crashes into Fleury. Letang and Fleury gives some grief to Killorn but nothing comes of it. Orpik was kind of lost in space on that play but in all fairness, St. Louis is one of the better passers in the league.
8:22: Off a turnover by St. Louis in his own zone, Kunits grisp and rips a wrister from the slot. Lindback hugs it against his chest.
8:01: What a fluky goal. Thompson controls a loose puck in the slot, turns and whips a wrister. It hits the stick of Brandon Sutter, flutters up into the air, strikes off Pyatt's head and pops over a Fleury and into the cage. What a weird hop. Pyatt gets credit for the goal. Either way, it's another goal in tight by an opponent. Thompson and Ondrej Palat get assists. Lightning 2-1.
6:45: Hedman takes a pass to the left poitn and wires a slapper on net. Fleury eats it up.
6:13: Crosby strips the puck off Conacher in the right wing corner of and is hooked by Eric Brewer. That's two minutes. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
5:52: Crosby shacks a one-timer from the left circle which Hedman blocks. The rebound clears the Tampa Bay zone.
4:42: Off pass from Malkin, Niskanen booms a one-timer form the left circle. Lindback says no
4:30: Malkin whacks a one-timer from the left circle which Carle blocks.
4:25: Malkin fires a one-timer from the left circle which Lindback gloves despite a screen from Neal.
4:13: The Brewer minor is killed. The Penguins generated a few chances there.
3:35: Taking a pass to the right point, Brian Lee needs a wrister from the left poitn on net. Fleury gloves it.
2:35: Kunitz rushes up the left wing and deals a pass to Crosby int he slot. Crosby whacks a one-timer which gets blocked.
2:19: After a point shot by Letang is wide off the right point, Crosby recovers the rebound and deals to Kunitz in the slot. Kunitz whips a one-timer on net with Lindback battles away.
1:21: Malkin takes a pass on the left wing, wheels around two defenders and lifts a wrister from the left circle which appears to get blocked.
1:09: A loose puck slides to th top of the slot. Hedman follows up on it and whips a heavy wrister on net. Fleury eats it up.
0:00: End of period. Lightning 2, Penguins 1.
-That certainly wasn't a good period for the Penguins but it wasn't as bad as one would think with the score. If not for a fluky hop off Tom Pyatt's noggin, this is a 1-1 game.
-The Penguins' power play actually looked pretty sharp that period. It creates some clean shots on net. They just couldn't get one in.
-Brooks Orpik is having a rough go of it at the moment. His positioning is just not there right now. He was late to defend Stamkos on his goal and was picked apart by St. Louis on a second chance in tight.
-Malkin still looks pretty sharp in his first game back. The only thing he hasn't done is score.
-Lindback has been sharp since he entered the game.
-The Penguins have a 20-19 lead in shots.
-Malkin leads the game with four shots.
-Brewer and Hedman each lead the game with three.
-Letang leads the game with 19:59 of ice time.
-Carle leads the Lightning with 15:49.
-The Lightning controls faceoffs, 26-18 (59 percent).
-Stamkos is 11 for 16 (69 percent).
-Malkin is 5 for 3 (63 percent).
-Orpik and Carle each lead the game with four blocked shots.
-An update on Garon:
Garon listed by team as lower body and will not return tonight— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) March 5, 2013
19:11: Niskanen is paired with Despres.
18:47: After Hedman blocks a shot by Neal in the left circle, Lindback denies Cooke on the follow-up as Malkin jabs at his glove.
18:14: Carle has a shot from the left point blocked by Kennedy.
17:00: Big moment here. Niskanen is called for interference against Conacher in the left circle of the Penguins' zone. The Penguins must kill this in order to have a chance at a come back.
16:47: Orpik makes a poor clearing attempts which St. Louis steals. He deals to Killorn who snaps off a wrister which Fleury fights off.
16:19: Letang blocks a wrister from Purcell in the right circle. Tanner Glass chases after it and whips a clear .
15:49: Stamkos hammers a one-timer from the left wing which Engelland blocks and clears down ice. Engelland is ging a bit after that shot.
15:40: Dupuis is in deep on the left wing on a short-handed chance and booms a slapper over the cage.
15:00: The Niskanen minor is killed. That was vital for the Penguins.
14:53: Lecavalier lwheels around the cage and deals a little pass to Pyatt in the crease. Pyatt jabs it on net. Fleury holds it out. There's a scramble for the puck but nothing comes of it.
14:34: Lecavalier dumps Oprik behind the cage and does so HARD. Orpik is on the ice in discomfort for several seconds.
14:22: Wow. Just ... wow. Welcome back Evgeni Malkin. Lecvalier turns the puck over at his own blue line, picking up the puck banked off the left wing boards, Malkin races his way to the cage. He cuts between Brewer and Carle, skirts in front of the blue pain, gets Lindback to commit and whips a forehand shot into the open cage. What a spectacular effort by the defending Hart Trophy winner. The goal is unassisted. The "Hey Song" and the "Malkamania" video are played. Lightning 2, Penguins 2.
12:31: The Penguins are flying. Crosby leads a rush up the ice into the offensive zone, He deals a backhanded pass to Letang rushing deep on the right wing. Letang circles the zone, emerges to the left of the cage, has his inital pass blocked, recovers the rebound and snaps off a pass from the left circle to Crosby in the right circle. Crosby leans down and whips a one-timer by Lindback's glove hand. What display of skill all around. Letang gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 3-2.
11:01: Niskanen fake a shot from the left point then deals to Kennedy just above the left circle. Kennedy snaps off a wrister which Lindback gloves.
9:35: Kunitz pounds a slapper from deep ont he right wing. Lindback gloves it.
9:25: Purcell psuesh the puc up the right wing, spins off a check from Eaton and whips a wriste ron net. Fleury makes the save.
9:00: Dupuis rips a wrister on net from th left wing. Lindback holds it out.
8:19: Sutter chugs up the left wign and snaps off a wrister which Lindback fights off.
8:02: Aulie drives a slapper from the left point. It appears t ht a body and deflects wide to the far side.
6:56: After an icing call, the Penguins call timeout to get a breather.
6:23: Using Hedman as a screen, Neal snaps off a wrister form the left circle. Lindback fights it off.
5:52: Orpik was not happy about that hit by Lecavalier:
5:11: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Hedman strikes a one-timer from center point. It hits a body in front.
4:39: Salo rockets a one-timer from the left point. Adams leans down to block it. Salo can blast the puck too.
2:32: Sutter races up the left wing and rips a wrister on net. Lindback punches it away. The puck hops to the right circle. Adams jumps on it and jabs it on net.
2:15: Killorn races into the offenive zone, pulls up and lifts a wrister at the cage from the left circle which Niskanen pokes away with a stick on puck.
1:16: Lindback is pulled for an extra attacker.
0:51: Malin pushes te puc up ice on a three-on-one with Neal and Cooke against Hedman. Malkin deals to Neal on the right wing. Neal whips it to the open cage for one of us:
Malkin and Letang get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 4-2.
0:30: The Lightnign calls a timeout to get organized.
0:24: Lindback is pulled again.
0:08: Not so fast. St. Louis slinks up the left wing and daels a pss to Lecavalier in the right circle. He snap osff a wrister which its off the leg of Glass and deflects on net. Fleury makes the save. The rebound kicks up and Stamkos backhands the puck of of midair on net while making contact with Fleury's mask. The puck hits twine. Officials rule it a goal. A video review confirms the call. We have a one-goal game again. Lecavalier and St. Louis get assists. Penguins 4-3.
0:02: The Penguins chip the puck down ice kill the rest of the clock. Carle races back to taps the puck for icing before the clock expires. The Penguins leave the bench to celebrate with Fleury but officials confer and determine there is 0:00.4 left on the clock with a faceoff in the Penguins' zone.
0:00: Lecavlier tries to chop the face off on net but no dice. End of game. Penguins 4, Lightning 3.
-It was hardly perfect. There definitely are some things to be concerned about with this game. But it was a vast improvement on the circus in Montreal from Saturday. The Penguins faced a pretty dangerous team tonight and limited its scoring chances by cutting down on their own mistakes and eliminating a lot of the time and space Tampa Bay could work with in the offensive zone. It's progress but the Penguins still have much room for improvement.
-The Penguins' stars really carried the offense in this game. Kris Letang, for all the chances he takes in his own zone, created so many chances for his teammates with breaking out passes. Evgeni Malkin roared back to the lineup with a fury. He had so many chances tonight. Sidney Crosby looked like the league's leading scorer, which he is. And Marc-Andre Fleury came through with some spectacular saves when his team needed them. This was a star-driven game for the Penguins.
-We're not sure what to say about Brooks Orpik. He is going through a rough patch of play right now. Not having Paul Martin available certainly doesn't help, but this is a trend which predates Martin's injury from Thursday. Orpik will improve but he's been a liability as of late.
-The Penguins moved to 13-4 with Simon Despres in the lineup and 2-4 without him. Just saying.
-More of the same from Mark Eaton. He was safe and steady but hardly flashy. That's vintage Mark Eaton.
-Malkin looked fantastic in his return. More than fantastic. Dangerous. The Lightning's defenders seemed to have trouble keeping up with him. At times. There are only a handful of players in the world who can make move he made on his goal.
-Special teams were really not a significant part of this game at all. The Lightning fizzled out on its only chance while the Penguins looked somewhat sharp on two of their three chances.
-The biggest blemish with this game was the fact that the Penguins once again allowed all of its opponent's offense to come from right around the blue paint. None of the Lightning's goals were all that pretty. It was just a matter of going to the cage and getting ugly goals.
-Vincent Lecavalier was nearly invisible until the late goal by Steven Stamkos. We can't recall a time of seeing him in person and being this much of a non-factor.
-Steven Stamkos? He's good. He just produces offense. It's almost like he can't help it.
-Fleury was outstanding tonight. After a less than stellar game against the Hurricanes Thursday, he rebounded with a confident effort. He wasn't fighting the puck, he kicked out safe rebounds and stole a goal or two.
-The Penguins led in shots, 32-28.
-Malkin led the game with five shots.
-Stamkos and Victor Hedman each led the Lightning with four.
-Hedman led the game with 25:48 of ice time.
-Letang was right behind him with 28:19.
-The Lightning controlled faceoffs, 35-31 (53 percent).
-Stamkos was 14 for 23 (61 percent).
-Crosby was 15 for 29 (52 percent).
-Orpik and Carle each led the game with four blocked shots.
-Neal now has five game-winning goals. Granted, his goal came with an empty net, but it counts.
-Malkin recorded his 550th career point.
-Chris Kuntiz (187 points) passed up Pascal Dupuis (186) for 39th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
-Neal passed up Jim Johnson and Petr Sykora for 76th place. All three players have 109 points but Neal (55th) has more goals than Johnson (14) and Sykora (53).