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Insider Only Game 1: Lightning dictate the pace in not letting the Penguins’ get to their game

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Game 1 Post-Game Buzz

No Steven Stamkos, No Anton Stralman, No Ben Bishop, No Tyler Johnson for the first period, No Problem for the Tampa Bay Lightning in taking Game 1 with a 3-1 win on Friday night.

From the Penguins standpoint, I’m sure some are going to look at this one as a missed opportunity because of how many top players Tampa Bay was missing.

Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on a five-minute power play early in the first period, couldn’t take advantage of a cold Andrei Vasilevskiy coming in for an injured Ben Bishop, and looked out of sync in the first forty minutes.

Some will probably look at the Penguins shot advantage of 34-20 and also see that as a missed opportunity.

However, in playoff hockey it’s all about the quality of chances not shots.

Whether this was a missed opportunity or not is for others to debate, the facts are the Lightning did lot of a good things and excelled in some of the critical areas that made them a dangerous opponent coming in.

Plain and simple, the better team took Game 1.

Tampa Bay is one of those teams that doesn’t need to get a lot of shots. They are very good at spreading the opposition out and scoring off the rush. Two of their goals came off the rush (or breakaway), a key for them to upsetting Pittsburgh this series.

The first one with Olli Maatta getting burnt on a stretch pass by Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn walking in for a breakaway goal. It was a typical blunder from Maatta whose lack of mobility is going haunt the Penguins more in this series like it did tonight than it did in the first two rounds against slower teams.

The Lightning then struck late in the second period off a Brian Dumoulin turnover in the offensive zone that also saw Kris Letang showing poor awareness in leading to a 2-on-1 goal from Drouin to put the Lightning up 3-0.

“The quality of chances we gave up were high,” Mike Sullivan said. “Tampa has a very good transition game and we knew that coming in. They stretch the ice pretty well. Our defenseman have to be aware. It starts with awareness,” said Sullivan.

What Tampa Bay did extremely well was not letting the Penguins get to their speed game.

“We’ve gotta find a way to get back to our game,” Sullivan said after the game of the Penguins regrouping.

Pittsburgh managed just one shot on Vasilevskiy in 7:35 of action in the first period, something Lightning coach Jon Cooper thought was huge in helping the Lightning handle the situation of seeing their star goaltender leave on a stretcher. “He was a rock,” Cooper said of Vasilevskiy.

Through the first two periods, Vasilevskiy only faced 10 shots, stopping nine. The Penguins failed to get into his sight-lines as he was seeing almost everything cleanly and the Penguins only goal of the night was a situation where Braydon Coburn did the job for the Penguins in screening Vasilevskiy on the Hornqvist goal.

The Lightning in a way kind of looked like the Boston Bruins from the 2013 Conference Finals in how they beat the Penguins tonight.

The biggest takeaway was how successful Tampa Bay was in keeping the Penguins to the outside.

“They defend hard, they block shots, they got people in the lanes,” Sullivan said. “They have good support mechanisms when somebody gets beat.” Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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