Games Grades: Game 5 @ Tampa Bay
After a rough night against the Panthers, the Penguins went back to work Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning posed a different threat to the Pens: a team with two proven stars, a crop of young talent and a potent power play.
But the Pens were determined to redeem themselves after a forgettable performance the night before. Here’s how it all shook down.
EVEN-STRENGTH OFFENSE: A-
At even strength, the Pens’ offense didn’t have a chance to get into any sort of rhythm until the 2nd period due to some early penalty trouble. Once they did, they were the better team 5-on-5 for the latter two periods of the game. They generated some quality chances and kept the puck deep in the second half of the game, which gave them opportunities to overcome the deficits they faced throughout the evening.
EVEN-STRENGTH DEFENSE: B
This was tough to grade because of the numerous penalties early in the game. They only allowed two goals, but their suffocating play in the 3rd was what helped seal the game for the Pens. Tampa didn’t get their first shot on goal in the 3rd until the 14:30 mark. The Lightning could not get anything going until the late power play, which will be mentioned in much greater detail later.
POWER PLAY: A
After four games, the power play finally clicked tonight. Their zone entrances were effective, they were able to set up the power play in the Tampa zone and they had effective puck movement. And in addition to Crosby having two goals with the man advantage, the power play came through at the end of the game and scored with 18 seconds left to clinch the win.
PENALTY KILL: B-
They started out strong, but ended up 60 percent for the night. However, one of those was on a play that probably should have been blown dead before the second goal ever happened, which is why the better grade. They kept Stamkos and St. Louis from scoring, which was their primary objective.
Fleury wasn’t bad tonight. The Lightning had the early advantage in power plays, which put him under siege early. A couple deflection goals, a perfect feed in front and a Steven Stamkos wrister were the blemishes on his game tonight. Four goals doesn’t warrant a high grade, but Fleury didn’t give us a soft goal and really hasn’t in his four starts thus far.
FINAL GRADE: B
A good bounce-back effort by the Pens tonight. They trailed for large stretches of the game, and went into both the 2nd and 3rd periods down a goal. But they found a way to battle back each time before icing the game in the final minute. They clamped down in the 3rd period on defense and found the three goals they needed to get their first road win and end the Florida trip on a positive note.
AND FOR THE REST…
SIDNEY CROSBY: A+
Crosby is the greatest player in the world, and nights like this show you what he is capable of. He scored a goal by kicking a puck to his stick and punching it home all in one motion. His second goal was a perfect redirect in front. His hat trick clincher was just a ripper that beat Anders Lindback far side. He also had an assist on the game-winner. He was dialed in from puck drop.
I don’t really have a grade for him, just a suggestion: Look at the calendar, mark the days when the Lightning are playing the Penguins, and be dealing with “flu-like symptoms” those days. Any shift Crosby has could be in the Lightning goal.
OLLI MAATTA: A
After being interfered with and driven hard into the boards, he came back and was a difference maker in the 3rd. Showed a lot of mettle tonight.
CRAIG ADAMS: A
This guy is playing hockey like we haven’t seen before. I don’t think Tanner Glass experiencing elevated play is a coincidence. Shows you how much this guy wanted to be here and how much he appreciates being valued.
MARTIN ST. LOUIS: B-
I only mention St. Louis tonight because, in this game, I saw something I can’t remember ever truly seeing. I’ve been watching this guy play at a high level for years now. He is amazing at being elusive, making plays and finding ways to make the opposition miserable. He somehow found a way to dodge the big hits and the major physical contact. Tonight, Matt Niskanen played St. Louis harder than I’ve seen him played by a Pens defender in a long time. And yet, he still had a two-point night. The guy is one of the greats to play the game.
MATT NISKANEN: A
What a great performance by him tonight. Prior to the season starting, he was being written off as being on his way out via trade. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and the Pens kept him in the fold. He has been good all year and came through with the big goal tonight to get the win in the closing seconds of the game. His game has matured after a rough post-season last year.
No huge hits, but he did give a couple good shots to Valtteri Filppula and Steven Stamkos. He was physical all night and played with some tangible grit.
LUDICROUS PLAY OF THE NIGHT:
A new category that I will only use on occasion, but tonight certainly warrants it. Steven Stamkos had a pretty tough shift on a power play in the 3rd. He broke his stick on a one-timer feed, then went back to get a new stick. Shortly thereafter, he broke a skate and was having a difficult time getting off the ice. In a bizarre act, the near referee decided to help push Stamkos to the bench to help him make a change to a fresh player. That player ended up being Alex Killorn, who would score the tying goal shortly after coming off the bench. Ignoring the fact that Stamkos and Paul Martin made some contact in the neutral zone during this, the ref took himself out of the game to assist a player make a line change. Definitely a first for me.
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