Lightning Shut Out Penguins, 2-0
Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 1:53 AMSzczechura, Smith, and Recchi Shine in Win
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby may currently be the most potent one-two scoring punch in the NHL, but the stats mattered little to the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight as they shut the high-scoring duo down, along with the rest of the Penguins, on their way to a well-earned 2-0 victory.
Lightning netminder Mike Smith
had only 15 shots to be concerned with, but the majority of those were excellent chances requiring a series of acrobatic saves. For Smith, the shutout was his second of the season and banished an 11-game winless streak.
Tampa Bay had two first period power play opportunities, and although they were unable to convert for a score, the Lightning moved the puck around crisply and with authority.
With the game still scoreless in period two, Pittsburgh forward Petr Sykora broke in alone on Smith but fired the puck wide. Seconds later, Mark Recchi leading the charge in the other direction, passed to Paul Szczechura
who circled the net and got the puck to the slot. From there, Matt Pettinger slipped it between the pads of Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at 5:15 for his second goal of the season. Recchi’s assist on the goal was a milestone, point number 1,400 for his career.
“Paul (Szczechura) did the job behind the net and made a good pass,” Pettinger said of his goal. “I just charged the net and found a hole to shoot through.’
At the mid-point of the period, the Penguins put together a series of good scoring opportunities, including a quick shot from Crosby after Malkin picked off a pass in the Lightning zone, and a wrist shot from Sykora from just outside the crease. With less than four minutes remaining in the period, Jordan Staal fired from point-blank range. Smith got to each of those attempts, and more, as the period ended with Tampa Bay leading 1-0.
The Lightning adhered to their work ethic in the final period, holding Pittsburgh to one shot on net for the first 12 minutes of the third stanza. Additionally, Tampa Bay avoided the penalty box altogether in the period, something the Penguins were not equally successful at.
With Maxime Talbot off the ice for a high-sticking double minor at 8:20, The Lightning issued the insurance goal they needed when Jussi Jokinen found Szczechura in front of Fleury and Szczechura re-directed the pass into the net. The power play goal came at
11:14 and was Szczechura’s second goal of the season and, combined with his assist earlier, was his first multi-point NHL game. Recchi also received credit for an assist, increasing his career point total to 1,401.
“Jussi (Jokinen) made a great pass,” Szczechura recounted. “I had my stick on the ice and fortunately for me, the puck went into the net.”
Malkin had one more excellent scoring chance before the night was through, streaking in alone on Smith at 16:41, but his attempt to get the upper portion of the net got away and flew high over the net.
The Lightning, seemingly in front of the Pittsburgh net all night, finished with 29 shots on goal, compared to 15 for the Penguins. The shot total includes nine that the Lightning fired while skating on three power plays. After breaking out of a 0-27 power play slump, Tampa Bay has three goals on their last nine extra man attempts.
The victory means that Tampa Bay enters the two-day Christmas break on a winning note. The team will re-group in Sunrise on Friday night to face their cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, in the first game of a home-and-home series.