Pittsburgh Penguins Drop Game Five in Overtime


The Pittsburgh Penguins took a 2-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning but the visiting Bolts forced overtime, eventually winning game five and forcing the Pens to the brink of elimination.

A few lineup changes gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a new look tonight, and the fresh faces made an impact throughout the game. In the end, the Pens couldn’t hold on to their leads as the Tampa Bay Lightning kept battling back. The visitors eventually forced overtime and won it less than a minute in.

Marc-Andre Fleury got the nod in net in his 100th career playoff appearance, taking the reins from young Matt Murray. Beau Bennett also slotted in on forward and Olli Maatta returned on defense.

The Penguins knew they needed to come out strong tonight and they did that, pressuring Andrei Vasilevskiy from the first puck drop. The “HBK Line” did a great job early on of picking off passes and maintaining pressure, and they even set up a great passing play. Usually it’s been the Bolts who have gotten in passing lanes and broken up passes, but the Pens seemed to realize that shortcoming by now.

The visiting Lightning had a few more chances as the first period moved on, taking over in the neutral zone and getting opportunities on Fleury. The Penguins helped out their goalie, though, by blocking a ton of shots and even saving a goal (thanks, Justin Schultz).

On the bright side, the Pens were out-hitting the Lightning, including a massive Eric Fehr hit on Jonathan Drouin. The physicality of this series soon resulted in coincidental minors for Evgeni Malkin and Matt Carle for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then Tyler Johnson hooked Sidney Crosby and gave the Penguins even more of an advantage.

The powerplay didn’t amount to anything, but I thought it looked a little better than last game. The Pens still didn’t put enough shots on goal, preferring to pass, which is something they need to remedy. Seriously, look how successful they were in game three when they put nearly fifty shots on net.

With just seconds left in the period, Bryan Rust rushed up the ice on a quasi-breakaway. He couldn’t convert and was rather unceremoniously dumped over Vasilevskiy’s pad, but luckily Brian Dumoulin was there to take care of the rebound. Dumo shot the puck in from a tight angle with only .7 seconds remaining in the first to give the Pens the first lead.

That’s Dumoulin’s first career playoff goal, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Rust followed up his strong first period by laying a huge hit on Victor Hedman early in the second. Though Hedman has over half a foot of height on Rust, there was no hesitation by the Pittsburgh forward.

The Penguins carried their momentum over from the first period by scoring another quickly. The “Swedish Connection” teamed up to double the lead: Carl Hagelin controlled an oddly-bouncing puck right in front of Vasilevskiy and sent it right to Patric Hornqvist across the crease. The latter made no mistakes in putting the puck in.

Olli Maatta picked up the secondary assist on the goal, sending the puck up to Hagelin. Welcome back, Olli – and this is the kind of play we want to see!

A chaotic sequence almost allowed for a fluky goal as Jonathan Drouin’s shot ricocheted off Fleury’s arm. Luckily, it didn’t bounce off either Pittsburgh defender into the gaping net before Kris Letang corralled it. Sometimes, all the talent in the world can’t beat a little puck luck.

The Penguins took a penalty for slashing shortly thereafter, and not surprisingly it was against Letang. Really, though, I’m okay with taking a penalty in exchange for preventing a few goals in the earlier sequence. The Pens’ PK was strong enough to prevent a goal and even had a few pushes toward the other end.

Then they got a chance on the powerplay as Nikita Kucherov took a seat for holding. The Pens’ top powerplay unit had some phenomenal chances, including one by Phil Kessel

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Unfortunately, not only could the Penguins not convert but they actually got scored on mere seconds after Tampa returned to even strength. Alex Killorn jumped off the bench to pick up the puck and shot it high over Fleury’s shoulder.

I hate when I agree with the commentators, but they continually pointed out how early Fleury went down tonight. This goal was a pretty good example of that, and switched the momentum to the visiting team.

Need more proof? Kucherov tied things up just a few seconds later: the Bolts scored two goals on two shots in 1:10 of play. That’s really not good, and made this a whole new game. The Penguins needed to regroup and get more pressure back at the other end. Tampa kept pressuring Fleury, constantly rushing toward him.

The momentum kept shifting, but that’s really no surprise. Both teams know how important this game’s outcome would be, and Tampa wouldn’t have made it this far in the playoffs if they just gave up and rolled over every time they were down.

Then again, the Pens wouldn’t have gotten this far either if they couldn’t hold their own. Their resilience has been a huge factor under Mike Sullivan.

The Penguins battled back to regain the lead with less than a minute left in the second period. Phenomenal work by Olli Maatta to deke through several Tampa players and get the puck in the zone allowed for Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz to work their magic. Kunitz is having a great series after a fairly lackluster one against the Washington Capitals.

Maatta highsticked Slater Koekkoek in the face and drew blood, leading to a four-minute penalty kill for the Penguins. The home team dodged a bullet as Koekkoek was tripped up just seconds later on the same play and no one was penalized for it.

The Pens’ kill was effective for the first two minutes, as they got the puck moved out of the way as best they could. Tampa kept the puck in the Penguins’ end most of the time, but Pittsburgh did a good job of shutting it down. Just over the midway point of the double minor, Johnson hit Letang and took a penalty of his own.

Johnson was officially booked with interference, and it kind of looked like an awkward knee-on-knee hit mixed with a bit of a spearing attempt. Whatever it was, Letang looked to be in a bit of pain and sold it well enough to even the game up to a four-on-four.

All the penalties expired without any additional scoring. The Pens probably should have gotten another PP chance after Bryan Rust was all but tackled, but hey, the refs missed calls on both sides tonight. Even after that, Letang high-sticked Kucherov then a Bolt high-sticked Dumoulin. It’s the playoffs. The rulebook is… abridged, to say the least.

Ryan Callahan nearly tied things up and the goal light came on, but reviews clearly showed that the puck never crossed the line. Happiness in Pittsburgh was short lived, though, as Kucherov quickly scored to really tie things up on a wraparound.

Sixty minutes wouldn’t settle it and the game headed to overtime.

It took less than a minute for a winner to be decided. Jason Garrison took a shot from the close faceoff dot and the puck deflected off Johnson into the net. The Penguins had gone from a 2-1 series lead to being down 3-2 and on the brink of elimination.

Next: Pittsburgh Penguins Switching Things Up for Game Five

It wasn’t a bad game for either side. Refs missed calls and both teams were resilient. If I was on Tampa’s side, I’d be thrilled by how it turned out. But since I’m not, I’m just kind of apathetic. The Penguins can improve, but the Bolts have been better than anyone expected.

And now, we’re far closer to a real goalie controversy than ever before.