You hate to call a game where the best of seven series is tied 1-1 a must win, especially in the first round. But that’s what last night was for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a gem of a Game 1 by Marc Andre Fleury, the Pens collapsed in Game 2, losing 5-1 and looking terrible in doing so. Tampa Bay seized all of the momentum and they were playing Game 3 on their turf. The Pens needed to respond by being physical, putting goals up early, and staying off the penalty kill. They did two of those three things, and the one they didn’t (putting Tampa Bay on the power play) almost did them in.
The Pens opened up the scoring early with Max Talbot and Arron Asham scoring just minutes apart to stake Pittsburgh to a 2-0. That would hold up until the Lightning were the beneficiaries of an atrocious penalty called on Alexei Kovalev for goaltender interference when in reality it was the defenseman who checked him into the goalie. Martin St. Louis scored in the waning seconds of the powerplay to cut the lead in half.
In the third, the Bolts again went on the man advantage after a questionable interference call on Paul Martin. Once again, St. Louis came down from his position on the point, corralled the puck with his skate and buried it between the pad and glow of a sprawling Fleury. The Pens needed to answer quickly, and just 31 seconds later, with Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson looking for the puck between his legs, Tyler Kennedy scooped it out from right in front of him and put it home. Pens win, 3-2 and take a 2-1 series lead.
Last night was a huge win, not just for the fact that the Pens did win, but because they got some of their swagger back. Kris Letang (first picture above) had one of the worst games I’ve seen him play in the loss last Friday, but looked very solid last night and earned the #1 Star of the game. Brooks Orpik (second picture above), known for his physical play, was back at it last night, sending players all over the ice. Game 4 is Wednesday night, and I think the Pens will be ready.