Up 3-1 sure sounds a hell of a lot better than tied 2-2, doesn’t it? Last night’s victory in Tampa Bay was a biggie, as the Penguins head home with some confidence. On another note, is there anything more nerve-wracking than playoff overtime? You go in fully aware that you’re either going to be elated or devastated by one play; you’re either going to bed with a big smile or with a bigger frown. I know this is what makes hockey so great, but it’s also what makes it so damn stressful.
Here’s seven random thoughts on last night’s victory….
1. James Neal could NOT have picked a better time to end his goal-scoring slump. I haven’t been harping on Neal’s offensive impotence, mainly because I thought he was doing a lot of little things well. I also think he’ll be more successful when teamed with a more skilled center (no offense to Mark Letestu). That said, it was imperative that he chip in with the odd goal at some point this series. He did so when the Pens needed it most.
2. Brooks Orpik played a game-high 40:32 and blocked a game-high 5 shots. We’ve all grown accustomed to Orpik’s defensive heroics, but I can’t help but think he’s still underrated. Plus, he always seems to rise to the occasion in the playoffs.
3. Think Steve Downie’s absence didn’t affect the Lightning? His replacement, Mattias Ritola, played 2:23 total. That meant a lot of extra ice time for Tampa forwards.
4. Sure, Dwayne Roloson made 50 saves, which sounds great. But – like Jay Caufield pointed out on the DVE Morning Show today – he looked shaky when making some of those saves. The Pens put a lot of pressure on the veteran goalie, and it ultimately paid off with Neal’s goal.
5. This is what I thought the Pens were getting when they signed Arron Asham in the offseason. The guy can flat-out play when healthy and given the opportunity. Three goals in four playoff games from a fourth-liner? Huge.
6. Great play by Paul Martin to keep the puck in the offensive zone just before Neal’s tally.
7. Ben Lovejoy assisted on Asham’s goal, but he and Matt Niskanen were on the ice for both of Tampa’s goals. I’m starting to worry when those two are out there.