The Tampa Bay Lightning had the chances, but in the end, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins who got the bounces.
Appearing in its first postseason game since the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tampa Bay came out with a hard-fought effort, but dropped Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Wednesday night, falling 3-0 to the Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center.
“It was what we expected,” Lightning assistant coach Dan Lacroix said. “I thought we came out hard and did a good job, but we’ve got to take away the good things from this game. We put pucks on net.”
The Lightning and Penguins battled back and forth through the first 40 minutes, but neither team could find the back of the net, which was mutually attributed to both strong goaltending and to creating a number of solid scoring chances at both ends.
First, Dominic Moore nearly opened the scoring midway through the first, but Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made a pad save to the left of the goal mouth to keep the game scoreless. He then denied Vincent Lecavalier early on in the second after the Lightning captain wristed a shot stickside on the Penguins net minder after dragging the puck through the legs.
“There was a lot of adrenaline and a lot of momentum out there,” Lightning forward Adam Hall said. “We just wanted to get traffic in front and get shots on net.”
Fleury finished the night by stopping all 28 shots faced.
Dwayne Roloson, despite being busier throughout the night, was equally as impressive and made 36 saves. The 41-year-old net minder was making his postseason debut with the Lightning, last appearing in the playoffs with Edmonton in 2006.
He stopped Jordan Staal after the Penguins forward put one on net from in-close, making a quick glove save to turn away the Pittsburgh forward.
Pittsburgh held a 38-28 shot advantage over the Lightning, despite Tampa Bay owning a 14-10 edge after the first period.
The two teams were deadlocked at zero until six minutes into the third period when Alex Kovalev put the game’s first goal on the board at 6:05.
Arron Asham also scored for Pittsburgh and gave the Penguins a two-goal lead just 18 seconds later after putting back a second attempt following a wrap-around try on Roloson.
Asham had just five goals in 44 games during the regular season.
“They have some great players and we just wanted to make it more difficult for them,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “Patience is the key. I think we just needed to try and capitalize on our opportunities and not get frustrated.”
Kunitz’s empty-net goal with 42 seconds to go sealed the win. Tampa Bay has a chance to tie the series in Game Two Friday night before the series shifts to the St. Pete Times Forum on Monday.
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