Pittsburgh-The stormy weather came early Friday
night at the CONSOL Energy Center. No one expected there to be Lightning in the forecast after a dominant performance by the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Game 1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Momentum can shift in a matter of moments in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Lightning showed the Penguins just how quickly a team can bounce back after a loss. The Lightning now have home ice advantage going back to Tampa Bay.
The Pens needed to have similar effort in Game 2 as they had in Game 1, but due to undisciplined play and giving up odd-man breaks, the ball is now back in their court. The pressure is now on the Pens to show if they can bring a much better effort in Game 3.
This Penguins team, with a load of post-season experience, should have known that Game 2 would be called much tighter than the opening contest. The NHL is notorious for evening out the playing field after a team gets the majority of the calls in their favor in a previous game.
After game 1, Lightning head coach, Guy Boucher, planted a seed in the heads’ of the Game 2 referees by repeating in his post-game interview that the Pens were shorthanded only one time in Game 1.
Boucher’s plan to get more calls in Game 2 played out just as he had wanted. The referees called seven penalties against the Penguins Friday night. The referees didn’t take long to make a call against the Pens. They were shorthanded 1:21 into the 1st period when Maxime Talbot took a slashing penalty.
Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik agreed that Game 2 was called differently by saying, “They probably called it a little tighter. We let a couple of guys frustrate us and get under our skin. I thought they “goated” us into taking penalties. They probably persuaded (referee) Chris Rooney to call a couple. They did stuff and we were stupid enough to retaliate in a couple of instances.”
This isn’t Pittsburgh’s first rodeo in the post-season, and the Pens should’ve been mentally prepared for a tightly called game. Instead, the Penguins took a variety of ill-advised penalties that were retaliatory and undisciplined.
“We took too many penalties and made that a factor in the game,” said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. Our discipline and composure in the game was not great. We didn’t manage the game well, we didn’t manage our focus, and we weren’t disciplined in the game.”
The Lightning had the 6th ranked power play in the regular season, and they had their way with the Pens penalty killing unit going 2-6 on the man advantage. The Pens looked like a composed group in Game 1, but Friday night, the most penalized team in the NHL went back to their bad habits.
The 2nd period was the only positive thing that the Pens could take from Friday night’s game. The Pens dominated a majority of the play in that period. Most of the 2nd period was spent in Tampa’s end and the Pens had the Lightning back on their heels, but the Pens were unable to register a goal.
An undisciplined penalty by Orpik at the 19:39 mark of the 2nd period killed the Pens momentum. Martin St. Louis found a crack in the pads of Marc-Andre Fleury seven seconds later to register the Lightning’s second power play goal of the contest. St. Louis, threw a puck towards the crease while standing on the goal line. Fleury could not handle the traffic in front of his net and the biscuit found its way past Fleury. The probability for a Pens comeback was halted.
The Pens did not show much desperation in the 3rd period. They were awarded two power plays and could not muster any scoring chances. Mattias Ohlund put the finishing touches on a Lightning dominated performance by wristing in a shorthanded empty netter at 17:55 of the 3rd period.
Going forward, the Pens need to focus on some key factors. The goals that St. Louis and Eric Brewer scored were back-breakers. The Pens must keep the Lightning from scoring goals early, and at the end of periods.
The Pens must also play this series 5-on-5. Their power play has been atrocious. The Pens finished the regular season with 106 points and had a less than average power play. This proves that they are one of the best 5-on-5 teams in the league.
To play even strength, the Pens must stay disciplined. Alex Kovalev, Talbot, and Orpik are just a few of the Pens players that took undisciplined penalties in Game 2. The player that retaliates always gets the penalty called against him. This was on display in Game 2 where the Pens constantly retaliated.
Even playing 4-on-4 is a disadvantage to the Pens. The Lightning have too many skilled forwards on their roster, and playing 4-on-4 gives players like Steven Stamkos and St. Louis too much room to operate.
The positive to take from Friday night’s game is that the Penguins got exposed all in one contest. The Pens know that they can beat the Lightning and they were one of the strongest road teams in the NHL this season. They need to be more focused and mentally prepared to give a strong performance in Game 3. The Pens didn’t lose due to some tactical coaching or playing error. Their play lacked desperation and urgency. If the Pens change this aspect of their game the result Monday night will be much different.
Bylsma has two days to get his team back into playoff form. The Pens have been blown out in playoff games before and have bounced back to play well in every game following. The fans of Pittsburgh will see a more focused, disciplined, and hungrier team down in Tampa Bay.