2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 2 - Tampa Bay 5, Pittsburgh 1 – Series tied, 1-1
There was little to analyze Friday night at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Two nights after the Pittsburgh Penguins saw everything go their way in the opening act of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal clash, the Tampa Bay Lightning turned things completely around in a game that was just as lopsided and lacking in drama.
While some NHL playoff series are already 2-0 laughers, this best-of-seven battle between the veteran Pens and the hard-charging Lighting appears poised to be a long struggle. It’s already assured of going five games, and unless one team reels off three wins in a row, it will proceed to a sixth game. When the action resumes in Game 3 down in St. Petersburg, Florida, it won’t be hard to identify the basic themes and tension points at work in Pens-Bolts.
In Game 1, Pittsburgh netminder Marc Andre Fleury withstood every flurry by the Lightning, stopping all 32 shots he faced in a spectacular performance that carried the Pens to a 3-0 win. Friday in Game 2, Fleury played 180 degrees differently. The Penguins were drilled because Fleury let in five goals on just 21 shots. As accurate as his reflexes and instincts were on Wednesday, they evaporated just 48 hours later inside the same building and on the same hockey rink. Tampa Bay, stonewalled and foiled on one night, came roaring back to land a decisive counterpunch in the Steel City.
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This game got away from Pittsburgh early, and never got back on the rails. Tampa Bay tallied two goals in the first seven minutes, with star scorer Vincent Lecavalier – a part of the Lightning’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship team – hitting the back of the net on a power play. By the time Nate Thompson added a goal at 17:02 of the first , the Bolts had claimed a 3-0 lead and a full-on stranglehold. Pittsburgh scored in the middle of the second period, but when Tampa Bay’s best player, Martin St. Louis, netted a power-play goal with just 14 seconds left in the second, all the air went out of the Penguins’ balloon, and the third period was just a lot of garbage time. The CONSOL crowd filed out of the brand-new arena in stages as the final minutes were played before a mostly empty house. Pittsburgh has to win with defense since its highlight-reel generators, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, are out of the lineup with injuries. When that defense – like Fleury’s goaltending – failed to appear in the first period, Pens fans could see that this was just not going to be their night.
Pittsburgh’s defense has to regain control of the proceedings as this series shifts to the Sunshine State. Marc Andre Fleury can’t have any Game 2 repeats if his team is going to advance to the second round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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