Penguins-Lightning Fallout

Two teams built with speed and skill, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning clashed their similar styles to a highly entertaining game in a Lightning 5-4 win.

It was probably too much fire wagon hockey for the coaches but fans got their money’s worth.

“We don’t want to be a team that trades chance for chance,” Mike Sullivan said afterwards on the high scoring affair.

In the second game of a back-to-back, Pittsburgh was under siege during the first period in allowing scoring chance after scoring chance, Pittsburgh chased the game throughout, trailing by scores of 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 and battled back each time before eventually falling short.

The Penguins got goals from Jake Guentzel (2), Conor Sheary (3), Bryan Rust (1) and Matt Hunwick (1) in the loss. Antti Niemi made 29 saves on 34 shots.

The Penguins outshot Tampa Bay 40-34.

Tampa Bay is a hot pick this season to re-emerge as a Stanley Cup contender after a down season in 16/17 with the Steven Stamkos injury, among other things.

You look at that forward group and you see why, especially if Stamkos can stay healthy.

They can match any club in a skilled game and can create major matchup problems.

Buzz among scouts, though, is the Lightning’s Achilles heel last season in missing the playoffs was that they were a team, notably the forward group, that got pushed around far too often (remains a question mark), and not everyone around the league is sold on young goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy just yet.  

Niemi’s athleticism remains a + but can the disastrous poor angles in his game be fixed?

Prior to signing Antti Niemi and the Penguins’ were aware based on talks with the Dallas Stars weeks prior to the signing that Niemi was likely to get bought-out, the club studied a lot of tape on what the 33 year old still had left in the tank.

One area the Penguins kept coming to was that the athleticism from Niemi was still there.

That was on display tonight where Niemi made a number of side-to-side saves and the quickness is still pretty good for his age.

Where the concern with Niemi stands is the To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

Rust Contract Talk

Bryan Rust with a goal, assist, leads the Penguins with 7 points on the season and has been the Penguins most consistent player to open the season.

Jim Rutherford is not big on negotiating during the season but there could be some exceptions this season, I’m told.

Pittsburgh would still like to get something done with [hide] Patric Hornqvist as the two sides exchanged numbers prior to the regular season starting and the Penguins internally have had lots of discussions on Rust.

And a Penguins source says the team has gone back and forth for a while now whether to wait it out until the end of the season or not.

Some fret waiting could backfire.

$3.25 million per season had been a number floating around where the Penguins see things from their end on a new deal.

A big offensive season, 20+ goals, 50 points, and if the Rust camp pushes the envelope, they could easily sell him as a $4 million a year player. [/hide]