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Lightning (46-25-11, 103 Points, 5th East) at Penguins (49-25-8, 106 Points, 4th East)
Eastern Conference Quarterfinal: Series tied 1-1.
Regular Season Series: The two clubs split the four-game series during the regular season, with the home team winning each contest. Tampa Bay took the first and last meetings, both at the St. Pete Times Forum, while Pittsburgh won each of the two games in between at CONSOL Energy Center.
The Big Story: Following a big 5-1 victory Friday night that prevented the Lightning from going down 0-2 in the series, Tampa Bay comes home tonight to play its first postseason game at the St. Pete Times Forum since Apr. 22, 2007. With that, the Bolts enter tonight’s contest with momentum stemming from the Game 2 victory, and with each of the next two games of the series to be played in front of the home crowd, could potentially take a commanding 3-1 lead in the first-round bout before the series shifts back to Pittsburgh over the weekend. Both teams, however, have had a proven record of success in Game 3s, as Tampa Bay has gone 7-2-0 overall throughout the years, while Pittsburgh comes in with a mark of 6-1-0 in its last seven Game 3 road matches.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay opens up the home portion of the first-round series in tonight’s contest, which is the club’s first playoff game to be played in Tampa Bay in nearly four years. The Lightning came out in Game 2 on Friday with plenty of zest and emotion, and it paid off. Tampa Bay scored its first three goals of the series all in succession through the opening 20 minutes en route to a 5-1 victory. The result was a much different one after dropping a 3-0 decision in Game 1 against Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fleury in the series opener. Eric Brewer and Simon Gagne led the way with three points apiece, and Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Nate Thompson and Mattias Ohlund each had goals for the Bolts, who tied the franchise playoff record for most goals in a game. Dwayne Roloson also made 35 saves, while Tampa Bay’s penalty killing unit was again spectacular, as it maintained its flawless mark by eliminating all seven shorthanded situations.
PENGUINS – Pittsburgh will attempt to regain the one-game lead in the series tonight after splitting the first pair of contests at home. After receiving three goals in a span of 14 minutes in Game 1, all the Penguins could muster in Game 2 was just a single goal in 60 minutes. Craig Adams spoiled Dwayne Roloson’s shutout bid in the second period of Friday’s game to bring Pittsburgh within two, but a pair of additional goals by the Bolts sealed Pittsburgh’s fate in handing them a lopsided loss on home ice. For the second straight game (the Penguins went 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 1) Pittsburgh had trouble capitalizing on opportunities with the man advantage, as it went 0-for-7 with the extra attacker in Game 2 and has yet to score a power-play goal despite receiving 13 chances through the first two contests. The Penguins, however, come into tonight’s game on the road, where it set a franchise record with 24 victories away from home during the regular season.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Eric Brewer leads the team with three points in the postseason and is fresh off setting a new individual playoff career-high mark for points in Game 2 on Friday night. Simon Gagne also had three points in the second game of the series, which tied the long-tenured postseason veteran’s career-high record. Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham is points in each of the first two games of the series after contributing a goal in Game 1 and an assist on Friday night in Game 2.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Matt Smaby (lower body, day-to-day). PENGUINS – Sidney Crosby (concussion, questionable), Evgeni Malkin (knee, out for season), Dustin Jeffrey (knee, out for season) and Matt Cooke (suspension).
Notable Quotable: “I can’t wait for our fans to welcome us. I’m hoping they have all the energy and enthusiasm in the world, because it does give you energy. It does give you hope. Every time you get a body check and you hear the crowd, your body check gets stronger. It uplifts you. At the same time, we don’t want to get caught up too much with emotions and all of a sudden you’re out of whack. We want a full barn of people screaming, and we want to give them the best show possible.” – Guy Boucher, on playing in front of the home crowd for Game 3
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