Ahh, the playoffs. How quickly things change. It looked as if the Penguins might run away with the series after Game 1. It also looked like Marc-Andre Fleury was unbeatable. Wrong on both counts.
Special teams played an enormous role Friday. Tampa scored two power-play goals and one on a 4-on-4 to beat the Pens 5-1 and even the series 1-1. Pittsburgh’s power play was awful, going 0-for-7. The Pens had golden opportunities at the end of the first and beginning of the second with the man advantage but came up empty both times.
Fleury was nowhere near as good as he was in Game 1, allowing 4 goals on only 20 shots. I wouldn’t say he was the reason the Pens lost this game, but he certainly didn’t help the cause. His counterpart, Dwayne Roloson, was solid again in making 35 saves.
Tampa took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission, and Pittsburgh was never able to fully recover. The Lightning got the fast start it desperately needed, scoring twice in 6:53. I wouldn’t say the Pens came out flat; they just didn’t match Tampa’s intensity. That, and a couple of penalties on Max Talbot and Jordan Staal, set the stage for Tampa.
The lone bright spot for the Pens was another goal from the fourth line, their second in two games. Craig Adams scored midway through the third to make it a 3-1 game and give Pittsburgh some life. But the Pens couldn’t get the much-needed next goal, despite several good scoring opportunities.
The back-breaker came with 14 seconds left in the second when Martin St. Louis banked a centering pass off Paul Martin’s stick past Fleury. It was a PP goal, courtesy of a shady cross-checking call on Brooks Orpik.
I predicted this series wouldn’t be easy, and it isn’t going to be. Game 3 Monday in Tampa is huge.