Tampa Bay 2 – Pittsburgh 1
For all of the talk of the Tampa Bay Lightning being a favorable first round matchup for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the big concern in Penguin circles right now is whether this team can score enough over a seven game series against any playoff team to win a round.
The Penguins (45-25-8, 98 pts) offense faltered once again tonight, producing just one goal in a 2-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning (42-24-11, 95 pts) on Thursday night.
With the win, Tampa Bay clinched a playoff berth and moved three points behind Pittsburgh for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning have a game in hand on Pittsburgh.
Marty St. Louis (30) and Steve Downie (9) scored first period goals and despite outplaying the Lightning in the final forty minutes, all Pittsburgh could get by Dwayne Roloson (36 saves) was a fluky Mike Rupp (7) goal early in the third period.
Pittsburgh’s inability to score goals is a major concern going into the playoffs and it’s not going away.
The team has not won a game in regulation since March 15th and have scored just 6 goals in their last 5 games.
Since Evgeni Malkin went down with a torn MCL and ACL on February 4th, Pittsburgh has won just 3 games in regulation out of 25.
The Penguins did not play a bad game tonight. They got off to a slow start which did them in but they were good in several areas.
“I think it showed in the second and the third the way we can control a game and really press on a team,” Penguins center Jordan Staal said, per the associated press. “If we start off like that and do that for three periods, it’s tough for a team to face that.”
Staal is correct but at some point you have to start finishing and in the playoffs, Pittsburgh isn’t going to have the shootouts to bail them out.
As good as defensively Pittsburgh may be and despite having Marc Andre Fleury in net, it may not be enough to win this team a playoff round, if the power play doesn’t come around.
The Penguins were 0-for-5 on the night and are now in a 3-for-64 funk. There is no sign of hope and absolutely nothing positive to take out the power play’s work tonight.
There’s no continuity, no one taking charge, bad personnel and some of the Penguins key power play contributors have been the problems of late.
Kris Letang has been a problem at the point and was again tonight. His decision making has been horrible. Another personnel issue for the Penguins….Neither Jordan Staal or James Neal will establish themselves as a big body front net presence. Neal is too worried about being a perimeter player and that’s a part of Staal’s game that he has yet to evolve into.
The biggest issue though for the Penguins right now is just getting the puck into the zone and keeping possession. You never want your power play going into the playoffs trying to find an indentity or being in the audition process that Bylsma has it in right now.
As bad as it’s been, Bylsma has to pick a top unit of 5 and go with it.