Final Score: 3-2
Series Lead 2-1
Finally! This was a start to finish team effort from the Penguins and exciting hockey from puck drop to the final blocked shot.
With a packed house and an impressive light show introduction Tampa was in for quite a shock when Max Talbot kicked off the scoring not 6 minutes into the game, and Arron Asham, who has proven to be the Pensâ€™ best asset during this series, followed suit not 40 seconds later. A few botched calls by the referees, missing a high hit on Lovejoy and calling goalie interference on Kovalev did not help matters, led to the first of two power play goals by Martin St Louis.
In the last minute of the first, Lecavalier gave the Pens a chance to demonstrate their â€œnewly renovatedâ€ power play. It definitely looked better. The puck was only cleared by Tampa twice instead of 6 million times and the Pens actually managed to set up a good cycle, too bad they couldnâ€™t deliver at all during both their power plays opportunities.
Most impressive tonight was the consistent ability to win draws, something not usually consistent with the absence of Crosby and Malkin. Talbot was over 50% tonight when it came to faceoffs and this is just the beginning of how far this team has managed to come since January. Zbynek Michalek has been a wall since he was signed over the summer but he has really come into his own these past couple months. Same goes for Martin and Kennedy. Who would have sat down last October and said that Tyler Kennedy was going to be one of the Pensâ€™ best players? Or that Letestu would be centering the first line?
The Penguinsâ€™ passion and intensity carried through the second and third periods. Even when the Lightning were able to tie up the game they continued to tally shots until ultimately Roloson allowed Kennedy to score the game winner. This series is shaping up to be the most evenly matched when it comes to offensive skill and defence, which is surprising considering the Pens are missing their biggest players.
Leturnover No More
What can you really say about Letangâ€™s performance tonight other than magnificent? Very deserving of the first star, Letang looked like he was on the warpath tonight and came away with two assists and a spectacular demonstration of his speed and agility. This was the Letang we saw in November, the one who was written in to the All-Star Game based on his skill. Now please, for the love of all things holy please, keep this up.
In case you missed it, about midway through the first period, Chris Kunitz laid out a hit that definitely falls under the new NHL rules on headshots. Â He was given two for elbowing and Iâ€™d expect the hit to be reviewed by the league. There appears to be definite intent to injure, I mean come on he was looking right at his head when he went to elbow. Does he deserve to be suspended? Yes. Is he a repeat offender? No. Will he be suspended? With the way the league rules on these kinds of hits Iâ€™d expect so, but then again I thought the hit on Chicagoâ€™s Brent Seabrook deserved a suspension and nothing came from that. At least Gagne isnâ€™t severely injured, that is the important thing in this situation.
You can see the hit here: http://i56.tinypic.com/b967g7.jpg