2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 - Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 2 – Penguins leads series, 2-1
The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to win big time hockey games without two of the top players in the sport. If the grinders from Western Pennsylvania can dig out two more wins, they’ll escape a first-round death trap and build confidence that could carry them to an unlikely playoff joyride without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Pittsburgh Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 shots Monday night, helping the Penguins hold off the Tampa Bay Lightning in a closely-contested Game 3 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The win gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead in the series and enabled the 2009 Stanley Cup champions to regain home-ice advantage.
Maxime Talbot started off the scoring with a goal at the 5:46 mark of the first period. Arron Asham also scored for the Penguins just 45 seconds later, with 6:31 gone in the first. The two-goal flurry rocked the Lightning on their heels and set a tone at the St. Pete Times Forum that the homestanding Bolts could not reverse. Game 3 of a 1-1 series is always a pivot point in a best-of-seven battle, and those twin strikes by the Pens were instrumental in shifting the series toward the fourth seed. The fifth-seeded Lightning did not sustain the energy or the verve they established in Friday night’s Game 2 rout. They did erase the two goals Pittsburgh scored in the first period, but by the time they completed that comeback, they lost their legs and allowed the Pens to finish the job down the stretch.
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The only goals Tampa Bay could muster past Fleury were on the man advantage, and both were scored by Martin St. Louis. The first one was scored at the 15:19 mark of the first period and the second goal was tallied just 2:12 into the third. It was St. Louis’s first multi-goal game in the playoffs since 2004, when the Lighting won the Stanley Cup.
Neither team could light the lamp in the second period, but after St. Louis’s second goal tied the score at 2-2, Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy - one of many unheralded players on a roster lacking star power - answered the second St. Louis power play goal with the go-ahead game-winning goal just 31 seconds later. Kennedy scored in traffic in front of Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson after Pittsburgh won a faceoff in the left circle. The game’s decisive blow, at 2:43 of the third, was Kennedy’s first playoff goal since 2009.
The crowd of 20,545 at the St. Pete Forum was hoping that the Lightning could take a series lead but the resilient club from Pittsburgh did not allow that to happen. Game 4 is Wednesday, and when the puck is dropped in the Sunshine State, Steven Stamkos – who was once again snuffed out by the Penguins’ gritty blue-collar defense – will have to make his presence felt if the Lightning are to entertain realistic hopes of evening the series at two games apiece.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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