Aftermath: Penguins 3, Lightning 0
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Kovalev | Neal | Orpik | Michalek | Asham
Neal Steals Lightning's Thunder | Notebook: Whiteout With A Chance Of Fleury
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The Penguins are off and running in their race to four! Pittsburgh opened the brand-new CONSOL Energy Center with a great performance, resulting in a 3-0 win and 1-0 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Despite the relatively close score, the Penguins played a phenomenal game against the Bolts, dominating the second and third period. Pittsburgh outshot the Lightning, 30-18, over the final two frames and scored two goals 18 seconds apart in the third period.
The Penguins’ play forced the Bolts to take several penalties in the contest, stymieing their momentum and keeping their top scoring threats sitting on the bench for extended periods of time.
A total team effort helped the club contain Tampa Bay’s three star players – Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier – off the scoresheet. It was a collective effort from the Penguins in holding them down, and when there were breakdowns goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was there to save the day. The Penguins netminder made 32 saves to record his fifth-career postseason shutout.
STAR OF THE GAME
Penguins winger James Neal had an impressive debut in his first career postseason game. Neal was a physical force on the ice and made a difference every time he jumped over the boards. His hustle drew two penalties to give the Penguins power play a chance to score and was excellent with the backcheck.
Neal was a one-man force during a shift in the second period. He used his body to create a couple scoring chances and his effort helped keep the puck in the offensive zone. When the Penguins intercepted a clearing attempt, Neal made a beautiful read to send a shot-pass right on the tape of Kovalev, who buried the shot to get the Penguins off and running.
Neal finished the game with three shots and two hits in 15:29 minutes of ice time.
The game was a scoreless affair six minutes into the third period. The Penguins were pressuring in the offensive zone when winger Alex Kovalev was knocked to the ice to the side of the net. The Lightning tried to clear the puck and left Kovalev all alone.
Paul Martin pinched on the halfwall and re-directed the clearing attempt to the stick of James Neal. The power forward sent a shot-pass to Kovalev in the near circle. Kovalev was all alone as he snapped a shot into the net to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
It was the initial hit on Kovalev that caused the Bolts to lose track of him. And he made them pay for it. Just 18 seconds later Arron Asham scored to make it a 2-0 game and the Penguins were on their way to a 3-0 win.
(AP) - Alex Kovalev and Arron Asham scored third-period goals 18 seconds apart and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first-round playoff opener on Wednesday night.
Chris Kunitz sealed the win with an empty-net goal in the final minute in the Penguins' first postseason game in their new arena. Brooks Orpik, who had two assists, opened the game with a heavy and clean check on Lightning star Steven Stamkos.
Fleury made spectacular saves - including a blind stop on former Penguins forward Ryan Malone in the first period - and shut down the Lightning's high-powered offense. Fleury earned his fifth playoff shutout, one short of tying Tom Barrasso's franchise record.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning have three formidable forwards in Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. To counter their offensive dynamics, the Penguins matched center Jordan and defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek against Lecavalier and St. Louis, and blueliners Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang vs. Stamkos’ line. The total team effort helped Pittsburgh limit the three Bolts stars to 0 goals, 0 points and seven shots.
- The Penguins MVP, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, did what he’s done all season for Pittsburgh – he gave them a chance to win. Fleury was tested often in the game and had to come up with some spectacular saves. He stoned St. Louis and Lecavalier on separate chances to the side of the cage. Lecavalier’s shot was through his own skates, but Fleury reached back with his arm to stop the shot. He made 32 saves for his fifth-career shutout, one behind Tom Barrasso for the franchise lead.
- Brooks Orpik set the tempo early with a crushing blow to Stamkos in the corner of the defensive zone. Both players were going for a loose puck when Orpik drilled Stamkos into the boards so hard that the Bolts' skates came out from under him and he fell to the ice.
- With the victory, Dan Bylsma has moved past Scotty Bowman for first place on the Penguins all-time postseason wins list with 24.
3 STARS OF THE GAME
#1. Marc-Andre Fleury
Goaltender - 29
5th playoff shutout
0 goals allowed
#2. Alex Kovalev
Right Wing - 72
#3. Jordan Staal
Center - 11
Author: Sam Kasan