Game 1 Wrap Up
— When the Lightning look back at this game, they will surely look at the first 10-12 minutes of the game as a missed opportunity. They had a flurry of chances to get on the board first but Pens goaltender Marc Andre Fleury showed why great goaltending is so important in the playoffs.
Fleury kept the Penguins in the game early and as the game progressed, Pittsburgh wore Tampa Bay down and put them away in the third.
“Fleury was outstanding, there’s no question about it,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “I just saw some clips of the replays and I still can’t believe he made some of those saves.”
— The Penguins were 0-for-6 on the power play but there was lot of buzz centering around the Penguins work on the power play in a positive way. “In the second period, especially in the third, our power play got momentum going our way and the building going, ” Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said.
There were clearly some not so great moments but we’re seeing some progress being made. Zbynek Michalek has added a much needed shot threat element for the Penguins.
The key for some success tonight, at least from the standpoint of creating scoring chances, was the Penguins being strong in the face-off circle, winning 8 of 11 draws on the power plays.
— The Penguins, as expected, relied heavily on their top-4 defenseman. Kris Letang (27:19, 20:01 EV), Zbynek Michalek (24:39, 17:06 EV), Paul Martin (23:17, 19:36 EV) and Brooks Orpik (21:48, 20:03 EV)
Meanwhile, Matt Niskanen had 12:21 TOI and Ben Lovejoy 9:45.
The top-4 has to be dominant in the series and they were tonight, limiting Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos to just 3 shots on goal.
Bylsma went with the matchup of Staal’s unit with Martin-Michalek against Lecavalier’s line and Talbot’s unit with Orpik – Letang against Steven Stamkos.
Putting a physical presence against Stamkos was excellent strategy by Bylsma.
What a force Brooks Orpik was: He had a stat line of 21:48 TOI, 2 assists, +2, 3 blocked shots, 7 hits.
— The Penguins came into this game where the feeling from the players was that they could exploit the Lightning if they got consistent back pressure against Lightning defensemen on the forecheck.
From the second period on, the Penguins did exactly that, outshooting Tampa Bay 18-7 in the second.
— The Penguins had no difficulties attacking the Lightning’s so called “vaunted” 1-3-1 system. They put up 40 shots and attempted 78 shots.
— James Neal was a difference maker at both ends of the ice. In his first post-season game, Neal played with an edge, something the Penguins would like to see him do on a more consistent basis.
Neal drew two early penalties, was very effective on the forecheck, creating space for the likes of Alex Kovalev who had 5 shots on goal.
If Neal can build off of this game, it will be huge for the Penguins.
— From a matchup standpoint, Jordan Staal and Max Talbot got the primary centerman defensive matchups against Lecavalier and Stamkos. Both delivered with solid under-rated games.
Staal collected an assist, 6 shots on goal, and won 9 of 16 draws.
Talbot had 2 blocked shots, 3 hits and was good in the face-off circle, winning 10 of 19 draws. Pittsburgh overall won 32 of 60 draws.
— Home ice was big for the Penguins tonight and will be among the difference makers in the series. The place was rocking and erupted after Arron Asham’s goal 18 seconds after Kovalev’s eventual game winner.