The short version? Flower stood on his head early until the team could turn the tide. The Pens proceeded to wear down the Lightning with their relentless forecheck and it paid off in the third period with two quick goals to open the scoring.
What a way to open the Consol Energy Center for the playoffs. The game was tightly contested throughout. The Pens showed they had been there before by not panicking and not taking (too many) dumb penalties. The Lightning weren't able to get the puck out of their own end quickly enough, allowing the Pens to set up shop for extended periods of time. That led directly to the first goal by the Pens. When the puck went behind the net and up the wall, Martin pinched in a bit on the wall and chipped the puck to James Neal, who had cycled back to fill in for Martin. Neal immediately slap-passed the puck from the left point to Kovalev, standing below the right circle. Kovy wasted no time in depositing it behind a sprawling Dwayne Roloson.
About ten seconds after that, Aaron Asham brought the puck down the right side, got Roloson to commit (and flop) and tried the wrap-around. He came up short on the attempt, but the puck game right back to him and he calmly flipped it into the top of the twine to give the Pens a 2-0 lead.
The Lightning's best chance came on a broken play. Purcell knocked Flower's stick out of his hands behind the net. The Pens recovered and consecutive clearing attempts by Michalek and Letestu hit the ref along the wall. Fleury went to retrieve his stick when he saw Letestu collect the puck, so when it deflected off of the ref (for the second time) and came out into the middle of the ice, Fleury was behind the net. Fortunately, St. Louis collided a bit with his own player and missed a wide-open cage.
Great, great playoff game. The Pens stuck with the game plan - they were the better team tonight, no doubt.
Kovalev (1), Asham (1), Kunitz (1)
- The top four defensemen (Letang, Orpik, Martin and Michalek) were excellent, all playing at least 21:48. Big time performance for sure.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was very calm and collected in net. You could tell that when he snared two pucks out of the air early in the first period.
- The power play, even though they were scorless in six chances, managed to generate some serious heat a few different times. That's something to build on, for sure.
- Kovalev proved to be in the right place at the right time, continuing his excellent string of playoff performances in a Pittsburgh uniform.
- Ryan Malone clearly came out ready for playoff hockey, his penalties notwithstanding. He wasn't as much of a visible factor as the game wore on.
- The Lightning taking too many penalties. If I'm a Bolts' fan, that's what I'm most upset about, even though it didn't result in any goals allowed. The lack of discipline has to be corrected (though I hope it isn't).
- St. Louis, Stamkos and Lecavalier - a combine 7 shots and -5 rating. The Bolts need more out of them.
- The refs weren't on top of their game, missing a pretty blatant stick to the face of Martin St. Louis.
- How do you know something is wrong with your team? When you're in the playoffs and Dominic Moore plays more minutes than Steven Stamkos.
- Things went about as perfectly as you could ask for if you're a Pens fan. That's a big surprise - they always seem to make things difficult.
What's the series at now?
The Pens are up 1-0 in the series.
When is the next game?
Game 2 is Friday night at Consol.