Probable first-round playoff opponents met in Tampa Bay tonight and it was the home-standing Lightning that emerged victorious, 2-1, despite a decided shot advantage for the Penguins.
A stealth wrister by Mike Rupp 4:31 into the third period was the only one of Pittsburgh’s 37 shots that eluded Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson. Although the tally sparked the visitors and provided a nail-biting finish, the momentum couldn’t overcome a miserable opening period.
Tampa outshot the Pens 8-6 in the first, their only advantage of the contest, and got goals from Steve Downie and Martin St. Louis. Roloson made that lead hold up with steady netminding.
The Penguins penalty kill was stellar once again, thwarting all four Lightning advantages. On the flip side, the power play continued its ineptitude, failing on all five opportunities.
The power play is starting to look as lost as when it was directed by Eddie Olczyk. There is no life and almost no chance for success. I have to believe that will be a major issue when the playoffs arrive.
The Pens rarely play well in Florida, a bad sign if they match-up with the Lightning in a best of seven. However, they did carry the game for most of the 60 minutes and should be able to penetrate the twine a few more times if they continue to muster quality scoring chances like they did tonight.