Penguins' quick strikes bury Lightning in Game 3
Tyler Kennedy celebrates after scoring the go-ahead goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Monday in Tampa, Fla.
Tampa Bay center Dana Tyrell slams Matt Niskanen into the boards in the second period of Game 3 of the Penguins-Lightning series Monday in Tampa, Fla.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Penguins couldn't protect a two-goal lead Monday night.
Couldn't find a way to neutralize Tampa Bay's power play, either.
Or to score on their own.
And they probably aren't going to agonize over any of that, since they still managed to defeat the Lightning, 3-2, at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The victory gives the Penguins a 2-1 lead in this first-round playoff series, which will resume with Game 4 at 7:08 p.m. Wednesday.
Tampa Bay controlled play early in each of the first two games, and the Penguins had been braced for the Lightning to try to take charge early again.
"That's something we've talked about," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said before the game. "Every game we've played them, the first period, they've always come out very strong, very hard at us. Being at home, I'm sure we're going to see it again."
The Lightning tried, to be sure, but it didn't work. This time, it was the Penguins who started strong.
Max Talbot gave them a 1-0 lead at 5:46 of the opening period, when he threw a shot past Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson from the top of the left circle for his first of the playoffs.
The only assist went to defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who absorbed a hard hit behind his net a few seconds before Talbot scored.
Just 45 seconds later, Arron Asham put the Penguins up, 2-0, as he took a cross-ice feed from Mike Rupp and beat Roloson from the inner edge of the left circle for his second of the series. Defenseman Kris Letang picked up the only assist.
Steven Stamkos of the Lightning had a chance to whittle down the lead at 8:11, but Fleury denied him on a deflection and follow-up rebounds.
That was yet another spasm of frustration for Stamkos, who is one of the top goal-scorers in the league, but struggled to find the net as the regular season was winding down and during the early days of the playoffs.
"It definitely bothers you," he said. "Trying to not let it is the hard part. Especially with the way things went in the last couple of years, you kind of expect it of yourself. You know your teammates count on you, as well, and your coaching staff."
Fleury understands that his teammates and coaches count on him, too, and he has done some quality work in the playoffs the past few springs.
And he has often been at his best in the wake of a defeat; he entered Game 3 with a 11-4 mark since 2008 after losing the previous game.
Not that he was particularly concerned about that little stat as he prepared to face the Lightning.
"I'm not going in thinking about coming back," he said. "I'm just going in thinking about winning, stopping the puck."
The Penguins killed an elbowing minor assessed to Chris Kunitz at 10:49, but didn't fare as well when Alex Kovalev was called for interfering with Roloson at 13:29, after Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund had knocked him into Roloson.
Martin St. Louis tossed in a backhander from the right side of the crease at 15:19 to cap a sequence that began when Letang had a chance to clear the puck down the ice, but barely got it across the blue line before Tampa Bay regained control.
Lightning left winger Ryan Malone missed much of the first period after taking a hard hit from James Neal of the Penguins in the second minute of play. He returned for a couple of shifts before the intermission and was back again as the middle of the second period approached after sitting out the early part of it.
Neal, whose scoring touch has flat-out deserted him since he was acquired from Dallas in the Alex Goligoski trade, had a chance to put the Penguins back in front by two on a power play late in the second period, but failed to capitalize on a chance from the right side of the crease.
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin was called for interfering with Vincent Lecavalier at 1:12 of the third after they got tied up and again, it cost the Penguins a goal.
St. Louis got it, putting in a rebound from the inner edge of the right circle exactly one minute after Martin went off.
The Penguins weren't fazed by St. Louis' second of the evening, however, and just 31 seconds later, Tyler Kennedy put them back in front by throwing in a Brooks Orpik rebound from the slot.
First Published April 19, 2011 12:00 am