TAMPA – It seemed that even though the Tampa Bay Lightning lost 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the score did not reflect the Bolts’ effort Friday evening at the Tampa Bay times Forum.
“I thought that those teams were two teams who played really hard and who had chances, the Penguins just have some big-time players that buried the first one and that put us behind,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “It made us play catch-up the whole time, but I was not displeased with the way we played.”
Registering 21 shots on goal, the Lightning also had 15 attempts blocked and 15 miss the net.
Yet when going up against the first-place team in the Metropolitan Division, the Lightning knew they had to play as close to perfect as possible to compete with a team like Pittsburgh.
“You have to give them a little bit of credit,” Cooper said. “They kind of dictated what went on with us, as I thought we did with them at times, but I still didn’t think it was a 3-0 hockey game to be honest.”
At the 6:53 mark of the first period the Penguins took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Chris Kunitz. Sidney Crosby sent Kunitz a cross-ice pass to the left face-off circle, which he finished for what eventually turned into the game-winning goal. However Pittsburgh then went nearly 10 minutes without a shot on net, including a power-play opportunity, as the Lightning dominated play in the frame.
Valtteri Filppula then drew a hooking call with 22.5 seconds left in the second period, which led to a big opportunity at the end of 40 minutes of play. With the 5-on-4 advantage Martin St. Louis sent a pass to Richard Panik right in front of Marc-Andre Fleury’s net, but the Pens’ netminder was able to come up with the save.
Then a delay of game call on the Lightning led to some misfortune on the penalty kill. Brandon Sutter banked a shot off of Victor Hedman’s leg, which was stationed on Ben Bishop’s glove side, keeping Pittsburgh’s fourth-ranked in the league power-play red hot.
“It was a really lucky bounce for them and unfortunate for us,” Hedman said. “It sucks a little bit of momentum out of you, but we battled hard. It could have gone either way, they just got the bounces tonight.”
The Lightning added the extra attacker to the ice with less than two minutes remaining in the third period, but the tactic ended up unsuccessful as Kunitz potted his second goal of the game at 18:17. Crosby added his third assist of the night on the marker.
“If we play like this in Columbus Tuesday, we will have a very good chance of winning,” Hedman added.
UP NEXT – The Bolts will practice at 11 a.m. tomorrow and will be off the following day to close out the weekend. Next week Tampa Bay plays their fourth straight Metropolitan Division foe when they head to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets Tuesday. They then return to the Times Forum for two games at home.