Sidney Crosby knocks the helmet off Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman during the first period Friday night in Tampa, Fla.
By Dave Molinari/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TAMPA – This is a team built to thrive in overtime and shootouts.
Or so it looks on paper, anyway.
But the Penguins’ 5-4 overtime loss to Tampa Bay Friday night at Amalie Arena was their seventh in a row in games that extend past the third period and their third overtime defeat in the past five games.
So it doesn’t seem to matter that their lineup is stacked with proven game-breakers like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, or that they have a goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, with a track record of success in overtime and shootouts.
It might not make sense, but it’s impossible to dispute.
“We need to get a win in these three-on-threes,” defenseman Trevor Daley said. “We need to find a way to get it done.”
The Penguins did a lot of good things in this game – rallying from a two-goal deficit on the road against a quality opponent is no small feat – but ultimately failed to get a second point to show for it.
“We would have liked to have gotten the second point, obviously, but I like the resilience of our team and where it’s going,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “The next step for us is, we’ve got to close some teams out when we’ve got a chance.”
Their chances to do that against the Lightning ended at 2:11 of overtime, when Vladimir Namestnikov punched a puck past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the left side of the crease to complete his first pro hat trick.
The loss dropped the Penguins’ record to 20-16-7 and leaves them two points behind Boston and Montreal, which are tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
After trading goals with Tampa Bay in the first period, the Penguins slipped into a two-goal hole during the middle of the second, when they were assessed three minor penalties in a span of 69 seconds.
“You obviously don’t want to have two five-on-threes against in the same game,” center Sidney Crosby said.
The Penguins’ shorthanded problems were compounded because all three minors were handed out to their top penalty-killers, Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr.
Their infractions gave Tampa Bay two extended five-on-three power plays. The Lightning scored on the first, then got another goal as Cullen’s second penalty was winding down.
“They got their power play going, and it got them off and running,” Fehr said.
But Patric Hornqvist restored the Penguins’ equilibrium with a power-play goal at 14:23 of the second, and Daley pulled them even when he beat Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevsky from below the right dot at 10:13 of the third.
And when left winger Chris Kunitz scored from the top of the left circle at 13:48 to give the Penguins a 4-3 lead, they had a very real chance to take a couple of points with them on the long flight home.
Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman beat Fleury with a spinning backhander from inside the right circle at 15:21 to force overtime, however, and the script that followed has become all too familiar for the Penguins.
They had chances to end the game in overtime but failed to capitalize.
If they had hung on to win in regulation, the Penguins would own a share of eighth place in the East.
Instead, they had to settle for the hollow satisfaction of picking up a single point.
“You get one [overtime victory], you get a little bit of confidence,” Daley said. “But we desperately need to get the one.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG
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