-Hey, guess where we are:
-No, not quite:
(Kudos to EN reader Dean Gething for the Tampa Bay Times Forum photo.)
-The Penguins will welcome defenseman Kris Letang back to the lineup. He has missed nine of the past 10 games to various "lower-body" injuries. When he returned to the lineup March 26 against the Canadiens, he looked slow and tenative. Will we see the usually aggressive Letang tonight?
-Letang means so much to this team, especially when fellow puck-moving defenseman Paul Martin is out of the lineup. Letang does so much for the team's offensive attack out of its own zone. Perhaps he can give Evgeni Malkin a boost in five-on-five play.
-This will be the Penguins' first look at the lightning under head coach John Cooper. Unlike his predecessor Guy Boucher, Cooper wants to take an offensive approach. He certainly has the talent to take that approach. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos are some of the best offensive weapons in the game. But does this team have the players on blue line to play aggressive?
-The Lightning's bottom two defensive pairings of Keith Aulie and Eric Brewer as well as Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas is kind of on the slow side. Perhaps the Penguins can try to take advantage of those matchups, even as the road team.
-The Lightning will start massive goaltender Ben Bishop (6-foot-7, 214 pounds) in net. In his only career start against the Penguins (as a member of the Senators) he was pulled due to an injury in an 8-4 home win. March 24, 2012.
-Presumably, the Penguins will team Brooks Orpik with Deryk Engelland tonight. They haven't exactly had a ton of success as a pairing in the past.
-The Frozen Four is going on right now at the Consol Energy Center. We sort of wish the entire NHL season was cancelled as we regret not being able to cover that marvelous event a little more indepth. Thankfully, the Post-Gazette's Jenn Mendenez (@JennMenendez) and Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) have you covered at the Road to the Frozen Four Blog.
-Dean sends in a phot of the anthem:
-That large glowing mass of light is the new scoreboard at the Tampa Times Forumn. It's basically the NHL's version of that monstrocity they have at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.
-The Penguins' starters are Jarome Iginla, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Tomas Vokoun.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Sidney Crosby, Simon Despres, Dustin Jeffrey, James Neal and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Lightning's starters are Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Matt Carle, Sami Salo and Ben Bishop.
-It's scratches are Victor Hedman, Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell.
18:02: Taking a pass at the left point, Radko Gudas pumps a slapper on net from the right point. Vokoun punches it away to the near corner.
17:56: Gudas flings another shot from the right point. Vokoun kicks it to the left wing. Tyler Johnson is right there for the rebound but punches it wide to the far side. He had a sure goal there. He actually shot it between Vokoun and the net.
16:09: Gudas gets another chance above the right circle. He snaps off a wrister which Vokoun eats up.
16:00: It appears the Penguins will play Orpik with Letang and Mark Eaton with Deryk Engelland.
15:53: Brenden Morrow creates a goal with sheer determination. Morrow collects a puck at the left wing of the neutral zone. He chips it up the boards, barrels his way through a check by Teddy Purcell, gains the offensive zone and attacks the net on his backhand. he shuffles a puck down low on net. Bishop kicks it out. The rebound skips to the left wing. Jokinen charges in and deflects the goal with his right skate. A video review confirms the goal. It's Jokinen's second with the Penguins. What an effort by Morrow. Morrow and Pascal Dupuis get assists. Penguins 1-0.
15:30: The Penguins get the first power play as Pierre-Cedric Labrie hooks up Jokinen at the Penguins' blue line. THhat's two minutes. Malkin, Letang, Chris Kunitz, Jokinen and Jarome Iginla take the ice.
15:17: Malkin chops a slapper from above the left circle. Bishop punches it away.
14:45: From the left half wall, Kunitz flings a wrister at the cage. It hits a body in front and is kicked out.
14:25: Taking a pass from Kunitz, Malkin hammers a one-timer from the right half wall. The puck hits something and kicks out to
13:58: Pascal Dupuis. Twenty-goal scorer. Kenny casts into the slot and rips a wrister on net. Bishop fights it off but allows a rebound. Dupuis drives to the net off the right wing and lifts the puck over the left shoulder of Bishop. Another dirty goal from in front. It's the second consecutive season Dupuis has hit 20 goals. The Lightning calls time out to get organized. Kennedy and Niskanen get assists. Penguins 2-0.
13:42: Stealing a puck from Gudas at the Tampa Bay blue line, Glass chops a shot on net from the left wing. Bishop steers it away.
11:24: St. Louis is thumped to the ice from the left wing boards
11:14: Brandon Sutter lifts a wrister from the left circle. Bishop eats it up. Crosby is shown in the visiting team box. He appears to be mad over the lack of PB&J smoothies in the press box:
10:30: Using Aulie as a screen, Kennedy snaps off a wrister which catches Bishop on the collarbone. Bishop seems stunned a bit and drops his stick.
8:31: Ryan Malone snaps off a wrister from a bad angle on the left wing. Vokoun kicks it out. The rebound hits off Letang's skates and deflects wide to the right of the net.
8:16: A wrister by Brewer from the left point is blocked by Dupuis and deflects into the Penguins' bench.
7:48: Off a cross-ice pass from Malone, St. Louis flings a wrister from the left wing wide to the far side.
7:10: "Let's Go Pens!" chants rain down on the visiting team.
6:59: B.J. Crombeen flings a wrister from the left wing. Vokoun fights it of. The rebound hops up. Labrie, Nate Thompson, Dudas and company all barge into the blue paint hoping to punch it in. Oprik, Letang and company fight them off. The puck sits right to the left of Vokoun's left leg before officials blow play dead. Vokoun complains to an official, presumably complaining about the puck being frozen. He then flips the puck in the air in front of the official.
5:21: Off a cycle, Bennett snaps off a pass from the left wing corner to Adams just above the blue paint. Adams jabs a shot on net. Bishop kicks it out. Nifty pass by Bennett.
4:41: Off a feed from Iginla, Malkin has a chance in tight but his backhander is kicked out by Bishop.
3:22: Another penalty for Malkin. He was sort of battling for position with Malone and kicks out his Malone's left skate with his right skate. Malone goes down easily. That's two mintues for tripping. Sutter, Cooke, Murray and Orpik take theice.
4:00: And the Lightning cashes in immediately. Stamkos controls the puck in the left circle and chips a cross-ice pass to Teddy Purcell in the right circle. Purcell leans down slightly and taps the puck in on his forehand through Vokoun's legs. What a nifty play. Stamkos and Sami Salo get assists. Penguins 2-1.
2:24: Carle chops a half slapper from the left point on net. Vokoun steers it to the far corner.
2:09: A loose puck trickles to the right point of the Tampa Bay zone. Cooke is coming off the bench as the puck bounces to him and he hammers a one-timer on net. Bishop fights it off.
1:44: Eaton collects a puck at the right half wall and chucks a wrister on net. Bishop eats it up.
0:02: Off a turnover by Carle, Malkin snaps off a low wrister from the right wing. Bishop kicks it out.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Lightning 1.
-The Penguisn controlled the bulk of that period. They had most of the quality offensive chances and most of the puck possession.
-Most of Tampa Bay's shots, at least in terms of five-on-five play, were from the perimeter. Most of the Penguins' shots were from below the faceoff dots.
-The Morrow-Jokinen-Dupuis line has some tremendous chemistry already.
-So much for any thoughts of easing Kris Letang back into the lineup. He leads the game with 8:05 of ice time on 11 shifts.
-Bishop is fighting the puck badly. He doesn't look all that comfortable tonight.
-That time out by Cooper saved that period for the Lightning.
-The Penguins have a 13-8 lead in shots.
-Kenedy, Malkin and Gudas each lead the game in shots with three.
-Gudas leads the NHL in beard growing ability:
(Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
-Carle leads the Lightning with 7:51 of ice time on 11 shifts.
-The Lightning has a 12-9 lead in faceoffs (57 percent).
-Lecavalier is 6 for 7 (86 percent).
-Jokinen is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Adams and Salo each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:04: Letang collects a puck at the right point and chops a slapper on net. Bishop kicks it out.
19:00: Malone is called fro clipping Iginla in the neck with his stick. that's two minutes for high sticking. Malone tried to lift Iginla's stick and ended up getting him in the throat. With most of the first power-play unit on the ice for that first shift, the Penguins end out the J.V. power play unit of Kennedy, Niskanen, Dupuis, Morrow and Bennett.
18:12: Jarome Iginla. Scoring winger. Taking a cross ice pass from Malkin in on the right halfwall, Iginla taps the puck to Letang at center point. Letang taps it back to Iginla. From above the left circle, Iginla rockets a one-timer over the Bishops's glove hand on the far side. What a shot. Letang and Malkin get assists. Penguins 3-1.
16:45: Tyler Johnson spins and whips a wrister from the right half wall. Vokoun fights it off.
16:35: Brett Connolly tries to jam in a forehand chance from the left of the cage but Vokoun holds it out.
16:27: Connolly has another chance in the slot but his shot is deflected out of play by Matt Niskanen.
15:47: The Lightning gets another power play as Bennett is called for hooking Stamkos on a backcheck in the right circle of the Penguins' zone. That's two minutes. Sutter, Dupuis, Orpik and Letang take the ice.
15:37: Dupuis steals an errant pass by the Lightning and whips it down ice.
14:51: Salo settles a puck above the left circle and hammers a slapper which is fought off
14:42: St. Louis slides a pass from the slot to Stamkos in the left circle. Stamkos leans down and IMMEDATELY hammers a one-timer from his office. Vokoun reads the play and
14:14: The Lightning cashes in on another power play. Killorn controls a puck on the right half wall and slides a pass down lot to Richard Panik below the goal line on the right wing. Panik deals a pass to Connolly position in the right circle. As Eaton slides down for a block, Connolly one-timers a perfect shot by Vokoun's glove. What passing on that play. Panik and Killorn get assists. Penguins 3-2.
14:01: Malkin pursues a puck in the left wing corner and he's hit from behind, legally, by Labrie. Niskanen and company jump Labrie. A scrum ensues. Malkin is skating around near his bench in some discomfort. Officials sort everything out and give Niskanen a roughing minor. It was a clean and rather pedestrian hit. He sort of hit Malkin in the right shoulder and sent him into the boards. It's just that Labrie (6-foot-3, 234 pounds) is a big man delivering it. Sutter, Orpik, Cooke and Letang take the ice.
12:25: Mark Barberio chops a shot from the left point Cooke blocks it out of play.
12:01: The Niskanen minor is killed. The Lightning didn't really generate much on that power play.
11:05: Malkin returns to the ice.
11:01: Of a rush into the offensive zone, Stamkos deals a pass from the slot to St. Louis to the left of the net. St. Louis has a clean look at the net but can't get a clean handle on the puck.
10:40: Of a cross-ice feed from Malkin, Kunitz races in off the left wing and lifts a shot over the cage. He had a good look at the net but Bishop challenged and forced the shot high.
10:22: Off a pass from Kunitz, Niskanen chops a one-timer from the left point. Bishop kicks it out.
8:58: Off a faceoff win in the left offensive circle by Jokinen, Morrow snaps off a wrister from a tough angle on the left wing. Bishop kicks it out.
8:33: Gudas collects a puck at the left point and chips it on net. Vokoun fights it off.
7:36: Another power play for the Penguins. St. Louis is called for hooking Letang. Malkin, Jokinen, Iginla, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
7:03: Malkin snaps off a wrister from the left wing. Bishop shrugs it away.
6:48: Letang wheels around a checker in the slot and lifts a wrister on net. Bishop fights it off. Johnson clears the rebound.
5:59: Niskanen wires a slapper form the left point over the cage.
5:40: Off a pass from Dupuis, Niskanen hammers a one-timer from the left point. Bishop kicks it out despite traffic.
5:36: The St. Louis penalty is killed. The Penguins generated a few nice chances there.
4:39: Glass chips and chases a puck down the slot. He tries to hustle by Salo who holds him up a bit. No penalty.
4:23: Sutter lifts a wrister from the left wing. Bishop eats it up.
3:36: Collecting a loose puck in the neutral zone, Purcell wires a slapper from the left wing over the cage.
2:56: Play is halted as Bishop is on the ice in some discomfort. He gets up and starts jawing at Morrow. A small scrum ensues. An official directs Bishop back to his cage. Replays show Morrow falling into Bishop and directing the back of Bishop's head into the left post. Ouch.
1:34: After Orpik successfully defends a two-on-one in his own zone, a series of drop passes in the Lightning zone allows Kunitz to deal a cross ice pass to Malkin above the left circle. Malkin hammers a one-timer which Bishop kicks out.
0:00: End of period. As the horn sounds, Deryk Engelland and Gudas exchange pleasantries at the Penguins' blue line. Nothing comes of it. From the bench, Glass jaws with Crombeen. Penguins 3-2.
-Things leveled off a bit that period in terms of puck possession and quality of scorign chances. The Penguins had less of each and the Lightning had more of each.
-Special teams have really dictated this game. Both team's power plays are looking impressive.
-The Penguins' penalty kill has looked pretty bad tonight. It hasn't done a great job of clogging up the passing lanes down low.
-It would be a stretch to say Vokoun has been tested a great deal, at least in terms of five on five play.
-There was a scoring change on the third Penguins goal. Kunitz was credited with the goal while Iginla and Letang get assists.
-The Penguins lead the game in shots, 27-15.
-Letang leads the game with five shots.
-Gudas leads the Lightning with three.
-Letang leads the game with 16:26 of ice time.
-Carle is right behind him with 16:24.
-The Lightning controlls faceoffs, 24-15 (62 percent).
-Stamkos is 7 for 10 (70 percent).
-Jokinen is 5 for 10 (50 percent).
-Niskanen, Adams and Salo each lead the game with two blocked shots.
20:00: Gudas and Engelland ended up getting roughing minors at the end of the second period. We'll have four on four play for two minutes on fresh ice.
19:31: Sutter gets a chance with some space on the left wing. He rips a wrister wide to the near side.
18:36: Malkin gets his poitns back. Killor maeka terrible turnover on the left wing wall in front of his bench. Malkin picks up the puck, races up the left wing, attacks the net. With Brewer defending, Malkin goes forehand-backhand-forehand an snaps off a little wrister which clunks through Bishop's five hole. What a sloppy goal all around for Tampa Bay to allow.
16:21: St. Louis pushes the puck up the left wing, pulls up and deals a pass to Salo at the left point. Salo cranks a one-timer which Vokoun steers away.
16:13: St. Louis deals another pass to Salo at the left point. Salo chops a hard slapper which hits something and deflects away.
15:44: Gudas tas three runs at Cooe who is kneeling on the ice in front of the Penguins' bench while battling for a puck. As play is halted, Malkin gives Gudas a shove. Engelland barges in and
15:37: Murray chucks a wrister from the left point. Bishop fights it off.
15:15: The new guys strike again. Off a cycle by Dupuis from the left wing corner, Murray takes a pass at the left point and flings a wrister wide on the near side. Morrow and Jokinen each reach out and one of them deflects it down towards the cage. It sneaks through Bishop and hits twine. Jokinen gets credit for the goal. Murray and Dupuis get assists. Penguins 5-2.
14:41: After Crombeen takes a run at him, Murray engages Crombeen in the neutral zone. Mrray calmly removes his gloves and helmet and they lockup. Crombeen mostly holds off Murray as Murray lands a few overhand rights. As Crombeen continues to plays defense, Murray lands tw body shots. Crombeen sneaks in a few rights. Officials step in and send each player to the penalty box. That's was Murray's first fight with the Penguins.
14:01: Brewer launches a wrister from center point wide to the left of the net.
13:51: A bunch of Lightning players go after Orpik after Oprik hits St. Louis from behind while behind the Penguins' net. A whole mess of penalties are doled out. The Penguins end up with a five-on-four power play.
13:24: Off a turnover by the Penguins, Thompson has a chance with a pseudo breakaway up the left wing. As he approaches the net, Kunitz hustles back and knocks the puck away with a poke check. Great defensive play.
12:22: Taking a pass on the left wing, Kennedy pumps a slapper from the left half wall on net
11:58: off a feed from Niskanen. Letang wries a slapper from the left circle wide on the near side.
11:51: Play returns to five-on-five.
10:31: Orpik slams Panick from the side into the left corner boards of the Penguins' zone.
8:56: Is someoen wearing a Martin St. Louis Calgary jersey in the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone?
7:41: Racing back into his zone, Letang hits Killorn into St. Louis and both places crash into the left wign boards of the Penguins' zone. What a hit.
5:58: Guda's antics are finally brought to an end as he gets a 10-minute misconduct.
5:34: Murray pitchforks a backhander on net from the slot. Kunitz whacks it on ice from midair. Bishop eats it up.
6:59: Labrie gets a chacne on the left wing and lifts a wrister over the cage.
4:58: Another power play for the Penguins as Aulie is called for inteference against Kennedy. Malkin, Iginla, Kunitz, Niskanen and Letang take the ice.
4:29: Niskanen snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Bishop fights it off.
4:00: Thompson slashes Letang's stick in half inf ront of the Tampa Bay bench. That's two minutes. The Penguins will have 1:03 of a five-on-three to work with.
3:40: Off a pass form Letang, Malkin hammers a one-timer from the right half wall. Bishop eats it up.
3:20: Tanner Glass. Goal scorer. Iginla contorls the puc dkwn low to the left of hte cage. He snaps off a shot/pass through the crease to Jokinen on the right side. The puck hits Jokinen in the body. He settles it and snaps off ashot right into Bishop The puck deflects to Glass right in front of the blue paint. He taps it into the open cage with a backhand. It's hits first goal for the Penguins. That's a big relief for him. Jokinen and Iginla get assists. The Penguins still have 1:20 of a five-on-four power play. Penguins 6-2.
2:13: Niksnane chucks a wrister from the left wing wall off the near post.
2:04: A point shot by Murray is fought off by Bishop.
1:57: As the power play ends, Cooke tries to jam in a forehand shot on the left of the net. Bishop holds it out.
1:30: Engelland is called for roughing. Adams, Dupuis, Eaton and Orpik take the ice.
0:18: The Lightning gets a late meaningless goal. Carle chucks a wrister from the left point. St. Louis is in front and re-directs it on net. It sneaks by Vokoun's glove hand and hits off the left post. Purcell jumps on it and pokes it into the cage. St. Louis and Carle get assists. Penguins 6-3.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 6, Lightning 3.
-Games like this are where you see the value of Kris Letang. The team's offensive attack was so much more aggressive and confident with him in the lineup. Yes, the Lightning is a pretty rotten team on defense and in goal, but the Penguins offensive attack hasn't looked this nasty in quite a while. Letang was a big reason for that.
-The power play was the one area where Letang's impact was felpt the most. The penguins just looked so much more organized with the man advantage. Again, Tampa Bay is a lousy team defensively so keep that in mind, but the Penguins' attack looked quite dangerous with the man advantage.
-What more can you say about Pascal Dupuis. For most of his career, he was simply considered a player Sidney Crosby was comfortable with and that was he was on the top line. But over teh past two seasons, mostly without Crosby, he has developed into a player fully capable of generating offense on his own. He know has back-to-back 20-goal seasons for the first time in his career. And he's done it with relatively little power-play time. He's going to cash in as a free agent this summer.
-The new guys are looking awfully comfortable with their new teammates. Dupuis looks like he's played his entire career with Jussi Jokinen and Brenden Morrow. Jarome Iginla looks pretty comfortable on Evgeni Malkin's right wing. And Douglas Murray contiunes took very comfortable along side Matt Niskanen.
-Brooks Orpik, who was teamed with Kris Letang most of the night in five on five play, had strong effort for the second consecutive game. He was clean with the puck and positionally sound most of the game.
-The only really ugly art of this game was the Penguins' penalty kill as it allowed three scores. That needs cleaned up.
-Again, keep in the mind that the Penguins played a team full of AHL-caliber players. This was not a great test.
-The Penguins dominated shots, 41-19.
-Evgeni Malkin led the game with eight shots.
-Radko Gudas led the Lightning with three shots.
-Matt Carle led the game with 24:47 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguins with 24:21.
-The Lightning controlled faceoffs, 33-26 (56 percent).
-Lecavalier was 12 for 21 (57 percent).
-Malkin was 7 for 14 (50 percent).
-Keith Aulie and Matt Niskanen each led the game with two blocked shots.
-Malkin (556 points) surpassed Kevin Stevens (555) for seventh place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
-Letang recorded his 200th career point. He is the 39th player to score 200 points for the Penguins.
-Tyler Kennedy passed up Doug Bodger for 49th place ont he all-time scoring list. Both players have 167 points but Kennedy (75) has more goals than Bodger (35).
-Glass became the 461st player in franchise history to score a regular season goal. His previous goal also came against the Lightning. As a member of the Jets, he scored in a 4-3 home win, Feb. 23, 2012. He also scored the first special teams goal of his career.
-Vokoun now has 298 career wins.