The Tampa Bay Lightning battled until the very end on Thursday night.
But even at that, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins who skated away with a 6-3 victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“That was a really good hockey team,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “That’s a team that won 15 games in a row in the top league in the world.”
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, earned its third consecutive win, getting a pair of goals and an assist from Jussi Jokinen and a 16-save effort from backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Tanner Glass each added power-play goals for Pittsburgh, while Evgeni Malkin also scored on the night.
Dupuis chipped in two assists as well, as did Jarome Iginla.
“We were able to do a great job against their top guys tonight,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said.
Despite the final score, the game remained close, even after 40 minutes, when Pittsburgh took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
The Penguins opened the scoring just four minutes into the game when Brenden Morrow’s initial shot deflected off Ben Bishop and then off of Jokinen’s skate before finding its way into the net.
Dupuis then doubled the lead just 1:55 later while on the power play, after following up on an initial shot attempt by Tyler Kennedy, which was first turned back by Bishop, but which then landed right on Dupuis’ stick and in for a 2-0 advantage.
Tampa Bay came to within one when Stamkos sent a nice cross ice feed to Purcell, who tipped it home with a quick jab of his stick blade while on the man advantage to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The teams exchanged a pair of power-play goals to open the second frame, as Kunitz made it 3-1 just 1:48 into the frame, only to be countered by Connolly’s first tally of the season nearly four minutes later.
It would be as close as the contest would come, though, as Pittsburgh scored three times in the third period to the Lightning’s one, while things also began to get a bit chippy.
Three consecutive Pittsburgh goals in succession put the visitors out to a commanding 6-2 advantage, until Purcell capped the scoring with his second of the night at 19:42 of the third while on the man advantage.
Prior to that, Malkin scored off a turnover in the Lightning’s own end with a quick little backhand to forehand move that beat Bishop, before Jokinen cashed in his final tally of the contest just 3:19 later.
Glass then added the Penguins’ sixth and final tally at 16:40 of the frame.
Bishop made 35 saves on 41 shots throughout the night.
“We made some mistakes that ended up with the puck in the back of our net,” Bolts forward Ryan Malone said. “They obviously have a good team, so you don’t want to give them too much.”
The third-period action perhaps was overshadowed by several altercations, mixed in with a fracas or two, as the teams combined for 44 penalty minutes in the final frame alone, with Tampa Bay collecting 29 of those.
Overall, the Lightning racked up 37 minutes worth of infractions on the night, while the Penguins registered 23, for a cumulative total of 60 throughout the contest.
The one bright spot in the loss perhaps came on special teams, with the Lightning power play going 3-for-4 on the night.
Pittsburgh’s unit with the man advantage, however, was equally impressive, converting on half of its six opportunities on the night.
“Ultimately it’s a loss,” Malone added. “Now it’s time to regroup and get ready for the road trip.”