Post-Game: Lightning are beating the Penguins at their own game

So who starts Game 6?

It has to be asked because the Pittsburgh Penguins are coming out of Game 5 with the who starts in goal question again.

The Penguins will be facing elimination in Tampa Bay Tuesday night for Game 6 after a 4-3 overtime loss tonight when a Jason Garrison shot deflected off Tyler Johnson and into the net past Marc Andre Fleury to put the Lightning up 3-2 in the series and an opportunity to close it out at home.

For the Penguins, this was supposed to be a night where they put the Steven Stamkos/Ben Bishop-less Lightning on the brink of elimination.

The night where they turn to Marc Andre Fleury and the loveable Fleury is every columnists’ story Monday morning of how he was the right choice from Mike Sullivan and he leads the Penguins’ to a victory to put them one game away from the Cup Final.

Instead Fleury’s performance is now under the microscope as is the play of Penguins’ stars. Sound familiar?

In the loss Fleury stopped 21 of 25 shots as the Penguins now boast a woeful .879 team save percentage in the series.


The first goal against with the Penguins leading 2-0 was a killer when Alex Killorn beat Fleury from the left corner 32 Ft out.

“I should have been better especially on the first goal,” Fleury said. “That was stupid, tough to lose.”

The Lightning would score four times on their final 14 shots. For Fleury, the more concern wasn’t with the one’s he let in, but how shaky he looked on the one’s that didn’t go in.

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“We knew he didn’t play for a while and you, obviously, want to shoot more and we saw he was struggling a little,” Nikita Kucherov said of Fleury via Tom Gulitti of

When the coaches evaluate Fleury’s performance in the morning, how unsure he looked in the latter half of the game in his struggles to track pucks, especially high, has to be where the focus is in evaluating whether to stick with him or not, compared to looking mainly at the goals against.

“I’m not going to assess his game right after the game,” Sullivan said of Fleury.

Overall the goaltending this series for the Penguins has not been strong as evident by a team save percentage of .879.

Mike Sullivan owed it to himself to go to Fleury in Game 5. No coach probably would want to deal with the backlash Sullivan would have been bound to receive if he would have stuck with Murray and he had a poor night in a Penguins loss. Backlash from even some of his coaches would have been there.

Right move or not doesn’t matter now. It’s all about making the right move for Game 6.

When you go back and evaluate Murray’s performance since the second period of Game 2, he’s been pretty good. Game 2 he shut the door after the Drouin goal, Game 3 he was excellent and even in allowing 4 goals on 30 shots in Game 4 to open the door for Sullivan to go to Fleury, he looked a lot better in giving up 4 goals in that one than Fleury did tonight.

You could make an argument that Murray’s last three games have been a stronger stretch than Games 5-6 of the Capitals series and Game 1 of the Lightning series where he was entrenched as the starter with no intention of going to Fleury.

The goaltending situation isn’t the only pressing issue for the Penguins. They have bigger ones.

Tampa Bay has been the superior team the last two games. They have not allowed the Penguins to take over games for large stretches like the Penguins did in Game 2 and in particular Game 3 when they put on a masterful performance.

Pittsburgh has had little answers for the Lightning’s transition game as they’re winning the neutral zone.

Maybe the most pressing issue of all is that Tampa Bay’s best players are starting to out-play the Penguins’.

Kucherov scored a pair of goals and added an assist tonight. He has seven points over his last three games and leads the NHL with 11 playoff goals.

Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang had dreadful games. Letang on the ice for all four goals against was a minus-4 and had a team-worst 36 SAT%. Crosby other than setting up the second goal by driving possession along the wall, was a complete non-factor with 2 shots on goal and just 4 attempts. He was rarely a dangerous player on the ice.

Letang’s last two games have fit the characterization of his career in the playoffs. He goes into this rut for 2-3 games where his level of play just melts down that is devastating for his hockey club. Game 4 with him losing his mind and Game 5 more so with his level of play have been that.

Wondering who the starting goaltender is going to be for Game 6 and having a major left wing problem on your top line are not things you need when on the brink of elimination.

It’s what the Penguins are dealing with.

The Evgeni Malkin line was the Penguins most productive with Bryan Rust being the best player on the ice but it would be something if how this post-season looked like it was going to be so different, yet it ends the same like so many have before — Suspect Goaltending and the stars going down quietly.–

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