Penguins strike Lightning down, 8-1
Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, center, celebrates a goal with defenseman Brooks Orpik, left and Pascal Dupuis in the first period of Wednesday's game against the Lightning at Consol Energy Center.
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Yeah, Tampa Bay was embarrassed. There was no getting around that when the Lightning gave up enough goals for a touchdown and two-point conversion, and watched Steven Stamkos, one of the elite players in the NHL, fall down on a penalty-shot attempt.
But the Penguins were equally as solid in an 8-1 win Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center.
They didn't just score on four of their first eight shots to take control of the game before the team's 187th consecutive sellout had settled in. They also controlled play as if they were reading from a coaching manual.
"Everyone was just out there making plays," said defenseman Alex Goligoski, who had a goal and three assists. "We were really crisp with our passing and had a lot of opportunities to create scoring chances and shoot pucks.
Game: Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7:38 p.m. today, Bell Centre, Montreal.
TV, radio, Internet: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9), penguins.nhl.com.
Probable goaltenders: Brent Johnson for Penguins. Carey Price for Canadiens.
Penguins: Are 6-1-1 in second of back-to-back games. ... Power play is 0 for 11 over past 3 road games. ... C Sidney Crosby has 5 goals, 13 points in past 10 road games.
Canadiens: Beat Penguins, 3-2, Oct. 9. ... Price is 2-7-1 in past 10 decisions. ... Jeff Halpern among NHL leaders with 57.4 faceoff percent.
Of note: Each team is 5-4 against the other's division.
"It was fun playing the game."
Winger Chris Kunitz had a hat trick, defenseman Kris Letang had three assists, defenseman Ben Lovejoy had two assists, five other players had a point each and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 shots.
The Lightning got its only goal when former Penguins winger Adam Hall tipped in a shot at 2:25 of the third period. By then, the Penguins had scored seven goals and were resting some of their big-minute players, and Tampa Bay was toast.
"We had no juice, nothing, and they had everything," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
The Penguins, who had lost two games in a row, moved into first place in the Eastern Conference with 55 points. With their 26th win, they tied a franchise mark for fourth-most wins in the first half of the season.
They nearly set another mark with the game's opening goal.
After Jordan Staal lost the opening faceoff, Evgeni Malkin picked off a pass by Sean Bergenheim in the neutral zone, leading to Malkin's second-chance goal seven seconds into regulation -- one second shy of the Penguins' record for fastest goal at the start of a game.
Sidney Crosby followed at 1:27 with a good chance when he got behind the Lightning's Victor Hedman, but goaltender Dwayne Roloson made a glove save.
Tampa Bay then got its first good scoring chance, but backchecking Penguins winger Matt Cooke took the puck away from Teddy Purcell as Purcell was looking at a large opening behind Fleury.
The Penguins took off in the other direction, and Cooke hit Ben Lovejoy with a long pass from near the left corner to the right point. Lovejoy's shot went in off the right skate of Chris Conner to make it 2-0 at 2:23.
Once more, the Lightning tried to get back in the game when Vincent Lecavalier and Hedman had a two-on-one breakaway, but Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik broke that up.
Tyler Kennedy gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead with a goal at 7:17.
"We had a great start, something we hadn't had in the previous games this little stretch," Kunitz said. "We knew we had to get on them. We knew they had a tough game in Washington [a 1-0 win Tuesday night]. Credit to our guys. We played hard, and then we kept going the rest of the night."
The Penguins got one more goal in the first period, on a power play after Tampa's Pavel Kubina held Malkin. Goligoski launched a slap shot from the left point, and Kunitz deflected it pastRoloson's replacement, Dan Ellis, at 18:56.
Boucher put Roloson back in net for the start of the second period.
Tampa's embarrassment peaked when Stamkos ---- second in NHL scoring only to Crosby -- lost the edge on his right skate on his penalty-shot attempt, fell near the top of the left circle, lost control of the puck and never got off a shot at 2:37 of the second period.
Stamkos was awarded the penalty shot when he was impeded by Lovejoy on a breakaway. Stamkos said he lost the edge on both of his skates when he slid into the post on the play that earned him the penalty shot. He didn't check his skates -- something else that went wrong for Tampa Bay.
The Penguins pushed their lead to 6-0 at 12:54 of the second period when Mark Letestu flashed some nice stickhandling and lifted a backhand shot past Roloson. Kunitz completed his hat trick with 10.9 seconds left in the second period. He made it 7-0 during a power play when, once more, he deflected a shot by Goligoski, this one from the center point.
Goligoski replaced Paul Martin on the left point on the top power-play unit.
"Alex showed what he can do there," coach Dan Bylsma said. "He had the shooter's mentality. He certainly can skate, move across the line, but we're looking for that shot presence."
Goligoski sent a wrist shot past Roloson's glove to make it 8-1 at 3:38.
First Published January 6, 2011 12:00 am