The Pittsburgh Penguins got off to the type of start they wanted, taking an early edge in zone play but at the first sign of trouble, the Penguins imploded on home ice for the second time in the series.
The Lightning’s “quick strike” ability was on display changing the momentum of the game in the first period, as Simone Gagne scored at 16:57 of the first and Steven Stamkos scored 46 seconds later to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead.
The Penguins surprisingly became lifeless and the significance of the Lightning’s first period quick strike goals was their “Big Guns” coming alive.
Steven Stamkos long awaited breakout game came at the right time and Stamkos netted 2 goals and 1 assist. Simon Gagne added 2 goals and Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and an assist in the victory.
Seeing an experienced Penguins team implode and become lifeless was most alarming in Pittsburgh’s 8-2 loss.
The power play unable to provide a spark when the Penguins needed it, was among their many downfalls in Saturday’s defeat.
A Vincent Lecavalier roughing penalty with 33 seconds left in the first period, set the Penguins up with a power play to finish the first and open the second period but the Penguins could not get anything going, and Lecavalier scored just 28 seconds after the Penguins power play ended, givng the Lightning a 3-0 lead.
The Penguins are 0-for-20 at home on the man-advantage.
Lecavalier’s goal sucked just about any life the Penguins had and minutes later, Gagne and Stamkos each added their second goals of the game, giving the Lightning a 5-0 lead just seven minutes into the second period.
Pavel Kubina added two power play goals early in the third period and the Lightning held a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the third.
The Penguins struggled mightily at clearing the front of the net, something that’s been an issue for them in the series.
The Penguins began to show some life after Kubina’s second power play goal at the 5:45 mark.
Mike Rupp (1) and Chris Conner scored their first goals of the series, a 1:46 apart, cutting Tampa’s lead to 7-2 at the 8:22 mark of the third.
Kovalev collected the primary assist on Rupp’s third period marker, his 100th career point in the playoffs.
After gaining some momentum that they could build on going into Game 6, the Penguins let their emotions get the best of them at times late in the third, and Dominic Moore pushed the Lightning’s lead to 8-2, collecting his 1st goal of the series and the Lightning’s 4th power play goal of the game.
Tampa Bay was 4-for-7 on the power play. Pittsburgh was 0-for-6.
Tampa Bay scored 8 goals on 25 shots. Marc Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period, after giving up 4 goals on 14 shots.
The Penguins fell to 0-5 all-time at home in close out games under Dan Bylsma. This was the third time in franchise history that the Penguins have given up 8 or more goals in a playoff game.
Max Talbot assisted on both goals and now has 32 career playoff points and has moved into 12th place all-time.
What’s Next for the Penguins?
The good thing for the Penguins is that they often show the ability to turn the page and bounce back from a loss. This is a veteran team and they should.
However, for the Lightning, they have several things to build on and the pressure is still on Pittsburgh who don’t want to come back to Pittsburgh for Game 7.
Game 6 is Monday night.