Evgeni Malkin had three goals and two assists, James Neal scored two power play goals, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins (23-17-4, 50 pts) to a 6-3 victory over the a Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
It was an afternoon where a great player took over in the third period.
After trailing 3-0 and being badly outplayed, Tampa Bay scored three times in a span of 4:50 to tie the game at 3-3 with 13:10 remaining in the third period.
With momentum suddenly on the Lightning’s side, Malkin scored 48 seconds after Teddy Purcell tied the game at 6:50 of the third and Malkin scored twice in a stretch of 1:49 to give Pittsburgh a commanding 5-3 lead mid-way through the third period. Malkin completed his 2nd hat trick and 8th of his career with an empty net goal with 56 seconds to play.
“We got beat on a great individual play by a superstar, ” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said.
After scoring twice mid-way through the third, Malkin had to deal with a frustrated Vincent Lecavalier in the third period who went after Malkin and delivered a sucker punch to Malkin’s face during a scrum. Lecavalier received a 10-minute misconduct and has always seemed to have some bad blood towards Malkin since the Penguins star kicked Lecavalier during the 06 Olympics between a Russia-Canada game. Malkin was suspended for the kick.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher told the media that Malkin tried to take a shot at Lecavalier’s knees. “Vinny felt Malkin tried to go for his knee’s, ” Boucher said. “In those situations, he’s a captain and he wants to show that we’re not going to take everything and just be little poodles and wait for things to happen,” Boucher said. “So, for me, there’s absolutely no blame on his part there.
Malkin’s five point afternoon moved him to second in the NHL with 51 points, trailing Henrik Sedin (52 pts) by just one point. Neal moves to second in the NHL with 24 goals and ranks 1st in power play goals with 12.
Lately when Pittsburgh wins, it’s because of their big guns. Neal and Malkin combined for 5 goals and 2 assists in the victory. In the Penguins last seven wins, linemates Chris Kunitz, Malkin and Neal have combined for 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points. Pittsburgh is 7-0 in the last seven games Neal has scored in.
The Penguins though also got some needed secondary scoring for the second straight game as Richard Park (3) scored a beautiful goal in the first period for his first goal in 18 games. Steve Sullivan who had a strong game at even strength, made a key play on the forecheck creating a turnover leading to the goal.
Matt Gilroy (1), Ryan Malone (9) and Teddy Purcell (9) all scored for the Lightning, who have lost seven straight and dropped into last place in the Eastern Conference.
Marc Andre Fleury made 17 saves to earn his 21st win of the season, moving to 4th in the NHL in wins. The Penguins return home on a two game winning streak after snapping a six game losing streak Friday night. The Penguins have scored 10 goals in their last two games. In their previous six games before that, they averaged 1 goal per game.
Pittsburgh outshot Tampa Bay 44-20.
The Penguins set the tempo from the drop of the puck and they were relentless on the forecheck and getting to the front of the net. Unlike a lot of games during their six game losing streak, Pittsburgh got high percentage shots today by doing the little things.
Pittsburgh had Tampa Bay on their heels defensively and the Penguins got their defensemen active on the rush early on to combat the Lightning’s 1-3-1 system.
What stood out today for the Penguins was their effectiveness on the forecheck. Key plays on pressuring the Lightning led to the Park goal and Evgeni Malkin’s first goal of the game at 7:38 of the third period to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead.
Park Goal: How the play Developed: Matt Cooke makes an errant pass in the neutral zone that goes cross-ice into the Lightning zone. In a battle for the puck just inside the blueline, Steve Sullivan brings excellent pressure on Lightning defenseman Brett Clark who doesn’t get the puck out of the zone and Richard Park picks up the puck and makes a great individual play, dragging the puck through his legs past Tom Pyatt and beats Garon low blocker side to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead.
Key Play on Goal: Steve Sullivan bringing hard pressure to Clark and lifting Clark’s stick up and causing a turnover as Park picks up the pick.
Malkin Goal: How the play Developed: Off the face-off, Chris Kunitz goes hard on the forecheck laying a hit on Pavel Kubina who doesn’t get the puck hard off the boards and Evgeni Malkin emerges out of the corner beating Nate Thompson for the puck and goes to the net scoring a backhand goal for his 19th of the season.
Key Play on Goal: Chris Kunitz going hard on the forecheck against Kubina, creating a turnover and Evgeni Malkin wins the battle out of the corner.
POWER PLAY SUCCESS
Pittsburgh went 2-for-5 on the power play and were sparked by two power play goals from James Neal who leads the NHL with 12 power play goals.
Neal got Pittsburgh on the board, 2:43 into the first period after Steven Stamkos took a slashing penalty 46 seconds into the game.
With the power play coming to an end, Evgeni Malkin entered the zone and setup at the right sideboards where Kubina comes atÂ him and Malkin finds Paul Martin who gives Malkin a passing outlet and Martin makes a backhand pass to Neal who one-times a shot from the goaline on a bad angle past Garon who was never expecting Neal to shoot from there.
Neal’s second power play goal 34 seconds into the third period was a beauty.
How the play Developed: Evgeni Malkin beats Nate Thompson on the draw as Pittsburgh gains offensive zone possession. In the process, Thompson loses his stick on the draw and Pittsburgh has a big advantage.
Malkin sets up at the point after winning the puck back to Sullivan and Malkin waits for the play to develop. James Neal in the high slot appears to be moving to the left side but rotates to the (Penguins) right side where Thompson has no stick and Neal opens up for a one-timer and gets a perfect feed from Malkin, blasting a one-timer past Garon for his second goal of the game.
Key Play on the Goal: Pittsburgh attacking Thompson’s side as he had no stick. Malkin played it as if the Penguins had a 5-on-3 situation.
AGGRESSIVENESS IN NEUTRAL ZONE DEFENSIVELY
Pittsburgh was very impressive in stepping up on the Lightning in the neutral zone and not backing up against their group of skilled forwards. That forced Tampa to play a dump and chase game and Pittsburgh being agressive defensively created turnovers going the other way with a big one in the third period as Brooks Orpik stepped up on Teddy Purcell causing a turnover and Evgeni Malkin goes the other way all alone for the goal as the Lightning were changing.
PENS DEFENSIVE MISCUES
Tampa Bay rallied back in the third period the same way they exploited the Penguins last season in the playoffs; By driving to the net and burying opportunities on the power play.
What we saw from a defensive zone aspect today was again struggles for Eric Tangradi to read the play in the defensive zone. Tangradi was much more effective offensively today but he has to improve his play defensively if he’s not going to develop into a top-6 forward.
BREAKDOWN OF THE LIGHTNING GOALS
Gilroy Goal: How the Play Developed: Steven Stamkos set up shop behind the net and found Matt Gilroy breaking to the net who one-timered a shot past Marc Andre Fleury to get the Lightning on the board.
Key Play on the Goal: Left winger Eric Tangradi lost track of Gilroy coming down from the right point who got a free lane to net for the goal. Tangradi had his back to Gilroy and had no idea he was jumping into the play.
Malone Goal PPG: How the Play Developed: With pressure coming from Pascal Dupuis, Teddy Purcell on the left boards made a quick cross ice pass to Vincent Lecavalier and the cross-ice puck movement created a 3-on-2 advantage down low as Brooks Orpik went to play Lecavalier and Lecavalier found Ryan Malone open in front for the goal as Zbynek Michalek was not able to get to Malone in time.
Key Play on the Goal: Steven Stamkos threw a “pick/interference” on Michalek in the low slot that caused Michalek to be late on his rotation to cover Malone in front. It was a play that Stamkos could have received an interference call but it’s rarely called.
Purcell Goal: How the Play Developed: Eric tangradi on the left boards is unable to settle the puck down coming up the boards from Paul Martin, which leads to a Bruno Gervais shot from the point and defenseman Ben Lovejoy falls down in front and Purcell buries one past Fleury to tie the game at 3-3.
Key Play on the Goal: Eric Tangradi’s inability to settle the puck down or get the puck out of the zone kept the play alive leading to the Penguins losing a battle in front of the net after a Gervais shot from the point.
PIT – 2:43 James Neal (23) (Power Play)
Assists: Paul Martin, Evgeni Malkin (1-0)
PIT – 10:38 Richard Park (3)
PIT – 0:34 James Neal (24) (Power Play)
Assists: Evgeni Malkin, Steve Sullivan (3-0)
TB – 2:00 Matt Gilroy (1)
Assists: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis (3-1)
TB – 4:53 Ryan Malone (9) (Power Play)
Assists: Vincent Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell (3-2)
TB – 6:50 Teddy Purcell (9)
Assists: Vincent Lecavalier, Bruno Gervais (3-3)
PIT 7:38 Evgeni Malkin (19)
PIT – 9:27 Evgeni Malkin (20)
Assist: Brooks Orpik (5-3)
PIT – 19:04 Evgeni Malkin (21)
NOTES: Pittsburgh entered Sunday night (prior to 7:00 p.m. games) 8th in the Eastern Conference with 50 pts….Marty St. Louis goal less drought has reached 11 games….Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skated twice during the Penguins road trip to Florida….Defenseman Kris Letang (concussion) is expected to join his teammates for practice this coming week and has been cleared for contact…