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TKO'd

Monday, 04.18.2011 / 11:25 PM / 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Coverage
By Sam Kasan
TAMPA, Fla. – One word can sum up the Penguins’ 3-2 Game 3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum: response.


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After dropping Game 2 to Tampa in Pittsburgh to even the series at 1-1, the Penguins had surrendered home-ice advantage and set up a pivotal showdown in the third affair between the clubs.

On Monday, Pittsburgh not only had to respond with a 60-minute effort, but within the game, they were forced to respond to a Tampa Bay rally. And the Penguins did just that – in just 31 seconds.

The Penguins built an early 2-0 lead on a pair of goals from Maxime Talbot and Arron Asham just 45 seconds apart in the first period. But the Lightning evened the game with two power-play goals, the second coming 2:12 into the third period.

St. Pete Times Forum was rocking and Pittsburgh needed someone to step up.

Enter: Tyler Kennedy.

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Kennedy’s first goal of the 2011 postseason couldn’t have come at a better time for Pittsburgh. Kennedy found a loose puck in the slot and buried it to re-take the lead for the Penguins just 31 seconds after the Lightning had tied the game.

“We knew we were in a battle,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “It was great that Tyler scored that next shift. It was a huge goal off the faceoff and really got the momentum back in our favor.”

“They whittled it back and tied the game eventually. To answer back in short order and get the lead, I thought that was big,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “’TK,’ like he has for us in the last 30 games, steps up and got the game-winner.”

Kennedy merely finished a perfectly executed faceoff play in the offensive zone. Jordan Staal won the faceoff and got the puck back to the point. Brooks Orpik worked the puck to Kris Letang at the midpoint, who ripped a shot that Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson stopped. The rebound fluttered into the slot.

That’s where Kennedy found the puck and whipped it into the twine.

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“It felt great,” Kennedy said. “My linemates were helping me out. It was a great play by Staal and a great shot.”

“It was huge,” Talbot said. “It’s a downer when you’re up all game and they tie the game. It was a great faceoff play, well executed and TK buried it. It got us the lead and the momentum. That was a huge goal for us.”

The Penguins were able to shut down the Lightning for the remaining 17:17 of the third period, including killing off a penalty. And in the bigger picture, the Penguins gutted out a win to take a 2-1 series lead.

“Guys have been battling all year,” Asham said. “We’ve had two of the top players in the world out, Staal out, myself. We’ve had so many injuries. It’s just brought us closer together. Different people have stepped up at different times.”

And Game 3’s hero was Kennedy.

“TK could have had a couple more,” Bylsma said. “He had some good chances tonight. I liked that whole line tonight with Staal and Kunitz. Just steadying the ship with their play tonight, but also being a threat. They win the faceoff and (Kennedy) goes to the net. He’s added an offensive punch when we’ve needed it. He comes up with the game-winner tonight.”

Now the Penguins will turn their attention to Game 4 and the possibility of gaining a decisive upper hand in the series.

“(This win) shows that we’re a good team by hanging onto the lead,” Kennedy said. “They’re a good team. But this one is behind us and we have to focus on the next one.”

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