Lightning 2- Penguins 0
After missing the first 14 home games of the season, Jeff Jimerson returned to sing the National Anthem before the Penguins took on the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night. Unfortunatly, the familiar sounds of ‘Jimers’ could not produce anything for the Pens. Not even a goal.
Oh yeah…..Ryan Whitney returned too.
The last time the Penguins were shut out at home was in January of 2008. The opponent? The Tampa Bay Lightning. Tuesday marked the return of many familiar faces now bearing Lightning blue: Ryan Malone, Marc Recchi, and Adam Hall, none of which were welcomed back with open arms. Initial cheers of Ryan Malone in the starting lineup quickly lead to boos as the hometown boy got into it early with Evgeni Malkin. This would only be the start of a long night of physicality involving Malone.
Throughout the first period, the Penguins came out strong, seeming to continue with a flow of emotions from the previous nights’ overtime victory in Buffalo. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury looked flawless, but would not receive any support for his play. Both teams traded penalties throughout the first, but neither was able to cash-in for a score.
Early in the second, Petr Sykora had a nice breakaway chance on Lightning goaltender Mike Smith, but missed the net. Unfortunately for the Penguins, the miss lead to a quick turnaround goal by the Lightning. The game went downhill from that point on. Missed opportunities continued when Evgeni Malkin had a 1-on-1 chance, but did not have a clear shot at the net, so he dropped the puck off for a streaking Sidney Crosby who also missed the net wide. Crosby did not register a shot the entire game, and now has only three shots on goal in his past four games. At this point, nothing was clicking for the Pens, and I expected to see Sid and Geno split up in the third period.
Coach Michel Therrien did indeed split up the two superstars off the first line, hoping someone would strike gold in the third. However, about midway through the period Ryan Malone took a shot at Rob Scuderi, shoving him into the boards with his arm, which was a borderline no-call for boarding. Scuderi went down hard, but his former teammate showed remorse and concern as he saw his fallen friend slow to get up. Scuderi did get up on his own, but did not accept the apology from Malone. Just moments later Scuderi wound up and took a shot of his own back at Malone. Penguin’s fans began to go wild, and it felt like it would be an emotional turning point for the Pens.
Unfortunatly, all the Pens experienced was déjà vu. Evgeni Malkin had a short-handed breakaway chance, but was stuffed by Smith. The Lightning quickly took the puck up ice and scored again off a missed breakaway chance by the Pens. The game would end with that score, 2-0 Tampa Bay.
The Penguins had scoring chances all night, but could not capitalize. They continually missed the net, and only registered 15 shots on goal, and just three coming in the third period. No team can expect to win any game when only having 15 shots on goal. Did goaltender Mike Smith play outstanding? No, not really. A couple good saves here-and-there, but the Penguins lost this game, the Lightning did not win it. The Pens have been out-shot in their last four games, and have lost 8 of the last 9 at home versus Tampa Bay. Evgeni Malkin’s point streak also came to an end at nine games. The Pens also failed to win two consecutive games again, not having done so since November 13 and 15.
Whitney seemed to leave off where he did last year. He did not seem to make many mistakes tonight, which is a plus. He finished with 23 minutes of playing time, so any concern about his conditioning was put to the test tonight. Hopefully we can see him in top form in a week or so.
Dan | PPT