The Tampa Bay Lightning stood tall early in the third period before falling short late.
The Lightning erased a three-goal deficit with 13:10 remaining in regulation, but couldn’t hold off a late surge by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who earned a 6-3 victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Sunday afternoon.
“You’ve got to dig deep to get rid of the negative side of starting from behind,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “It’s emotionally draining, yes, but we fight it and always fight to come back. We give ourselves a chance and we did again tonight.”
Matt Gilroy, Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell each had goals for Tampa Bay, which has now lost seven straight games for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Vincent Lecavalier also chipped in a pair of assists. Purcell tied it at three at 6:50 of the final period after gathering a rebound from the side of the net and shoveling one past Marc-Andre Fleury for his ninth of the year.
Pittsburgh regained the one-goal advantage just 48 seconds later after Evgeni Malkin countered with his first of three unanswered goals in a span of 11:26. He finished off his eighth career hat trick with an empty net goal at 19:04, and added two assists on the afternoon.
“I don’t think about that,” Malkin said of his individual performance. “We played a great game and got two points. I think we’ve done a great job in these last few games.”
James Neal scored twice on the power play and Richard Park had the other goal for the Penguins, which won for a second straight game after snapping a six-game losing streak on Friday against the Panthers.
The Penguins led 3-0 until Gilroy sent a shot that slid underneath Fleury’s pad to spoil the goaltender’s bid for a 22nd career shutout.
The goal was Gilroy’s first of the season, and occurred just 1:26 after Neal’s second of the game came with Steve Downie in the penalty box for roughing.
Malone appeared to get the Lightning on the board earlier in the contest, but following video review, the goal was waved off after officials determined his stick to be above the crossbar when he batted in a pass from Martin St. Louis.
He cashed in a second opportunity late in the game and brought Tampa Bay to within one at 4:53 of the third when he tapped home a beautiful feed from Lecavalier at the side of the net while on the power play.
After Purcell tied it at three, Malkin scored twice in a span of 1:49 midway through the third to put the Penguins up 5-3.
“That’s just the way he plays,” Neal said of his teammate. “He comes back and made some unbelievable plays. It’s fun to play with him.”
The Lightning’s frustration started to set in during the latter half of the final period, as Lecavalier and Malkin dropped the gloves at 12:11.
Lecavalier received a double-minor for roughing and was handed down a game-misconduct penalty. Just five seconds later, Neal and Kubina exchanged sentiments, which resulted in both players also receiving game-misconduct penalties.
Neal and Park had goals in the first period, when the Penguins outshot Tampa Bay 17-5.
Malkin assisted on both Neal’s goals to record a five-point game, capping the performance with his empty-net tally at 19:04.
Fleury, playing in his 17th consecutive game, stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced. Garon finished with 38 saves on 43 shots.
“It’s tough because it’s the same [result] as last game,” Boucher added. “When you see that, it’s tough because it becomes something heavier. We don’t want our fans to see us quitting. We don’t want our fans to pay the tickets for nothing. I thought when it was 3-3 our barn was going berserk and our players were confident. For me, even on that fourth goal, it wasn’t over. We were coming. That fifth goal, that killed us, because it was off a turnover. We have to manage that better.”