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The Confluence

Penguins edge Bolts 6-4, finally clinch playoff berth

The Penguins finally clinched a playoff berth Tuesday night in Tampa in true Penguins fashion. 

Translated:  They blew them out early, played lackadaisical prevent defense, let them back in the game, and then held on for dear life to get the win.

The life of a modern-day Penguins fan, eh ??

Sidney Crosby scored two goals within 64 seconds to turn a wide-open, physical game into a seemingly easy blowout.  However, as the Penguins relaxed, the Bolts “stormed” back (get it ?) for four third-period goals to really makes things uncomfortable.  Jordan Staal’s empty netter with 13 seconds to go sealed the win.

This one turned into one of the nastier games of the year, not only in fights but with several high hits and flying elbows from both teams.

After a scoreless first period, Ruslan Fedotenko started the scoring after some nice passing deep in the Tampa zone.  Tyler Kennedy had possession of the puck behind the Tampa net and made a backhanded feed to Jordan Staal, who then made a very quick pass to Fedotenko in front of the net.  Fedotenko then brought the puck to his backhand and lofted it past Tampa goalie Karri Ramo to give the Pens a 1-0 lead at the 5:00 mark of the second period.

The Lightning got into some bad penalty problems after that point, and even with the underwhelming Mike Yeo-led Penguins powerplay, eventually they’re going to make you pay if you give them enough chances with the man (or men) advantage.

On a 5-on-3 powerplay, after Sergei Gonchar’s slapper from the center point nailed Chris Kunitz, the rebound went to Evgeni Malkin along the left boards.  Malkin’s cross-ice feed went to Crosby, whose one-timer past Ramo made it 2-0 Pens.

Still on the man advantage, Malkin made a long pass to Kunitz at the Tampa blue line.  Kunitz then made a nice backhanded dish to Crosby sprinting into the zone.  Crosby, who in a similar situation Saturday night in Carolina barely moved, this time made a couple of nasty dekes to get Ramo out of position for the fairly easy wrister and a 3-0 lead.

Early in the third period, Kris Letang’s wrister was off the mark, but Jordan Staal made a backhanded centering feed in front of the Tampa net to Matt Cooke, who poked it into the net even though he took a high-stick to the mouth during the play to pad the Pens’ lead to 4-0.

But, as has happened many times this year, the Pens let their foot of the gas, and Tampa did their best to get back in the game, which they surely did.

It started about four minutes into the third period while the Pens actually had a powerplay, but old Caps’ nemesis Jeff Halpern scored a short-handed goal to cut the Pens’ lead to 4-1.  That was coupled a few minutes later by a nice give-and-go between Stephen Stamkos and Marty St. Louis for a St. Louis goal to make it 4-2.  Not even a minute later, Paul Szczechura took a loose puck and fired a wrister past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 4-3, and Penguins fans all over were collectively shaking their heads.

The Penguins then got what turned out to be a huge goal two minutes later when Fedotenko came in on a breakaway but his wrister was stopped by Ramo.  Fedotenko got tied up with Ramo, and as that was happening, Petr Sykora grabbed the rebound and put it home for his 300th NHL goal.

Sykora’s goal was huge because with under a minute Halpern scored again to make it 5-4, but Staal’s empty netter gave the Pens the 6-4 win.

Other notes:
- Is it just me, or does a helluva lot of scoring plays I type start with Tyler Kennedy ??  What a sparkplug that guy has turned out to be.
- Staal was a team-high +3, while Crosby, even though he scored twice, was a team-low -4.
- Another great job by the Pens’ penalty kill, going 7-for-7.
- “Only” 19 hits credited to the Bolts and 17 for the Pens.  Double both of those, then you’ve got a more accurate picture.

The Penguins now head back home for the regular season home finale vs. the Islanders.  Will we finally see another start for Mathieu Garon ??

Filed in: , | The Confluence | Permalink
  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins, tampa+bay+lightning

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About The Confluence

Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes.  I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

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