TAMPA, Fla. – On a night when both netminders carried a shutout into the final three minutes of play, a scrappy goal by Maxime Talbot was the only one needed to decide the game. Hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Bay Lightning dropped a 2-0 decision on Tuesday night.
Evgeni Malkin added an empty-net goal while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots for Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith made 21 save on 22 shots-faced for the decision.
Playing in his first game back from injury, Sidney Crosby opened the game looking to redirect a shot at the side of the net. Smith held off the shot before denying the league’s second-leading scorer, Malkin. As Malkin skated hard down the left wing, he cut to the net and moved to the backhand, but Smith stretched his left leg out to make a pad save.
Late in the period Tampa Bay skated with their lone man-advantage opportunity of the night. Fleury held off a shot by Martin St. Louis as he skated to the side of the net before Crosby followed up the power play with a chance against Smith.
Shortly after the expiration of the penalty to Brooks Orpik, Crosby skated into the Penguins offensive zone followed closely by a pair of Lightning defensemen. Crosby snapped off a shot from the bottom of the slot, but Smith smothered the attempt before covering it in the crease.
With a little more than a minute left in the first, St. Louis rang a shot off the post. As St. Louis cut down the right wing Jussi Jokinen backhanded a pass from the side boards. The Tampa Bay winger put a hard shot on goal that beat Fleury but deflected off the right post.
Early in the second St. Louis and Jokinen combined for another strong attempt. After Jokinen fired off a shot in front of the net St. Louis tried to bang at the rebound, but Fleury made the save.
Vincent Lecavalier followed up the play with a hard shot after receiving an outlet pass at the blue line. Lecavalier settled the puck before moving to the right wing circle for a shot, but Fleury closed his pads on the attempt.
Within minutes, at 13:53 of the second, Petr Sykora was awarded a penalty shot for Pittsburgh. After swinging out to the right circle Sykora cut back to the front of the net. The Penguins winger tried to switch to the backhand to get the shot high, but Smith got his left pad out to make the save.
The penalty shot was the first Smith faced as a member of the Lightning, and the second faced in his career. Smith previously denied Alexander Ovechkin on an attempt in November, 2006. Sykora fell to 1-for-4 in his career on penalty shots.
As the second period wound down Halpern and O’Brien each saw shots sneak wide of the net from towards the bottom of the left faceoff circle. Skating through the slot, Halpern tried to slide a back-handed attempt past Fleury as he skated to the left edge of the crease.
Early in the third Crosby tried his hand at snapping an open shot against Smith from the right circle, but the Lightning goalie shifted to the side of his crease to block the shot.
Fleury responded with a save at the opposite end of the ice, denying Lecavalier on a breakaway. After skating down the left side, Lecavalier tried to put a shot through the five-hole after reaching the top of the crease. Fleury closed his pads on the shot to keep the game scoreless.
Craig MacDonald was held off on an open shot from the right wing before Smith held on to a shot through traffic by Tyler Kennedy. The Pittsburgh carried the puck around the back of the net before making a wrist shot from the left circle.
Snapping the tie with 2:47 remaining in the contest, Talbot posted his 10th goal of the season to give his Penguins club the lead.
After Crosby gained control of the puck in the Lightning’s zone, he dished a pass ahead to Talbot. Talbot dropped the pass back to Crosby, who back-handed the puck to the front of the net. As the puck deflected off a pair of skates, Talbot reached out to put a shot to the right of Smith as he stretched into a split in the crease.
The goal was Talbot’s second in consecutive games.
Although the Lightning fought to tie the game and force overtime, Malkin added the empty-net goal to close out the scoring. The goal was his team-leading 38th of the season.
Fleury stopped all 35 shots-faced to post his 10th career shutout, his third of the season.
Tampa Bay out-shot Pittsburgh, 35-23 in the contest, and Jokinen led all skaters with six shots on goal. Both teams were scoreless on the power play, with the Lightning killing off three Penguins man-advantage opportunities.
The game marked only the second home ice loss against the Penguins in four seasons. Tampa Bay has won six of the previous eight meetings between the clubs at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Following the contest the Lightning will get back on the road for a trip that includes three games in four nights. Kicking off a pair of back-to-back games, Tampa Bay will face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, March 6 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) for the final meeting between the clubs this season.
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