Old tricks, same results: Roloson stymies Penguins as he did in playoffs

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Funny, but he sure looked like the guy who made life so miserable for the Penguins this past spring.

Dwayne Roloson's numbers -- a 5-4-1 record, 3.29 goals-against average and .895 save percentage --said he wasn't the same goalie who helped Tampa Bay upset the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.

But everything he did Thursday night in the Lightning's 4-1 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum said he is. Maybe better.

The Penguins outshot Tampa Bay, 34-18 -- that included a run of 11 unanswered shots during the second period -- and had a commensurate advantage in territorial play and scoring opportunities. Didn't matter.

They couldn't get anything past Roloson until Tyler Kennedy scored from the left side of the slot at 16:49 of the third period, by which time all they could accomplish was to deny Roloson the satisfaction of a shutout.

"It's frustrating when you have shots like that and you don't bear down and score," said winger James Neal, who launched six of those shots at Roloson.

"We had some good chances that I'm sure guys would want to have back."

If Roloson's play was the biggest factor, special-teams play wasn't far behind.

The Penguins were 0 for 7 with the extra man -- including a stretch of one minute, 39 seconds with a five-on-three advantage late in the third period -- while the Lightning's power play capitalized on two of six chances.

"Our special teams have to be even or better to win games," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "Our [penalty-killing] faltered a bit. It just wasn't a pretty special-teams battle."

So it turns out that Roloson's lackluster stats from his first 10 appearances this season weren't the only stats that didn't matter. The Penguins entered the game with the top-ranked penalty killing in the league, while Tampa Bay's power play had converted just one of 31 chances in its previous eight home games against the Penguins.

"They won the [special-teams] battle, 2-0," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "And that's pretty much the difference in the game."

The Penguins (11-5-3) will play at Florida at 7:38 p.m. Saturday.

Center Richard Park was a healthy scratch for the Penguins, who also played without forwards Sidney Crosby and Dustin Jeffrey. Sitting Park cleared a spot in the lineup for left winger Steve MacIntyre, who recently completed a conditioning assignment in Wilkes-Barre.

Tampa Bay entered the game with the lowest-rated home-ice penalty killing in the NHL, but held the Penguins without a shot after Steven Stamkos went off for tripping Chris Kunitz at 6:10 of the first period.

The Lightning didn't get a shot until 8:38, but used it to take a lead it never surrendered.

Vincent Lecavalier scored the goal, picking up the puck along the left-wing boards after Staal lost it there, then cutting to the net and sliding a backhander between the legs of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

The Penguins, who had a 7-5 edge in shots in the opening period, had a chance to pull even when Evgeni Malkin and Steve Sullivan got a two-on-one break in the final minute, but Malkin's cross-ice feed to Sullivan was broken up by Teddy Purcell of the Lightning.

Brett Connolly padded Tampa Bay's lead with a power-play goal -- the first allowed by Fleury this season -- at 4:08 of the second period.

Connolly set up at the front lip of the crease and deflected a Dominic Moore slap shot between Fleury's legs. Fleury got enough of the puck to slow it, but not enough to prevent it from skidding across the goal line.

The Penguins had several quality chances to pull within a goal after Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman was penalized for holding at 13:59, but they failed to convert on any of them.

Malkin hit the right post with a shot from the right side at 14:39 and, a minute later, was denied by Roloson from near the right post after he received a cross-ice feed from Sullivan.

Steve Downie effectively put the game out of reach with another man-advantage goal at 2:04 of the third. He collected the rebound of an Eric Brewer shot that had been blocked by Paul Martin and threw it over Fleury's glove from the left hash mark.

Lecavalier hit an empty net at 15:49, one minute before Kennedy got his goal that had an impact on nothing but a few guys' personal stats.

"We had a lot of shots, a lot of chances," Staal said. "A lot of empty nets, a lot of missed chances that just wouldn't go in for us."

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @molinaripg .


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