PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — The Penguins shut down the Tampa Bay Lightning, beating them 3-0 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Both teams were held scoreless through the first two periods. The Pens finally broke through at 6:05 with a goal by Alex Kovalev, set up by James Neal and Paul Martin.
It was a bit of a broken play after Kovalev was tripped in the corner by Tampa Bay’s Pavel Kubina. With the crowd booing the lack of a penalty call, Neal got the puck at the left point and fed Kovalev, who one-timed a shot shortly after he got back up.
With the arena still buzzing, Arron Asham doubled the lead with an end-to-end rush. Carrying the puck up the right wing, Asham faked a shot before cutting around the net to draw goalie Dwayne Roloson out of position. Asham’s first attempt to wrap in the puck failed, but he converted on a second chance by flipping the puck into the open left side. Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik had assists on the goal.
Chris Kunitz made it 3-0 with an empty netter set up by Jordan Staal and Orpik, who picked up his second assist for the night.
Marc-Andre Fleury made spectacular saves – including a blind stop on former Penguins forward Ryan Malone in the first period – and shut down the Lightning’s high-powered offense. Fleury earned his fifth playoff shutout, one short of tying Tom Barrasso’s franchise record.
Fifth-seeded Tampa Bay is in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The fourth-seeded Penguins seized the momentum by outshooting the Lightning 18-7 in the second period, and carried it into the third in the first playoff meeting between the teams.
With much of the focus on the Lightning’s offensive stars – Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis – and the Penguins playing without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the goalies stole the spotlight.
Fleury kept the Penguins in the game during the first period, when the Lightning had a 9-2 shot advantage seven minutes in.
He made a right pad save at 2:10 on Malone’s attempt to sneak in a shot behind a crowd during a scramble in front. About five minutes later, Fleury made up for misplaying a dump-in by getting his blocker up to foil Nate Thompson’s attempt to convert a rebound in front.
Fleury’s best save came 11 minutes in. He contorted himself to stop Brett Clark’s shot from the point that was deflected in front by Dominic Moore, who was so sure the puck had gone in he had already raised his arms to celebrate. Then, with Fleury’s back to the play, the flopping goalie raised his leg to stop Malone attempting to flip the puck in from the left side. That electrified the crowd, which began chanting “Fleury! Fleury!”
He wasn’t done.
In the opening minute of the second, Fleury stopped Stamkos’ shot from the left point and then reached back to get his blocker arm to deny Lecavalier, who got off a clean shot on a nifty play.
Getting the rebound on his backhand, Lecavalier set himself up by slipping the puck through his legs to his forehand.
Roloson wasn’t as busy, but made several key stops, two against Jordan Staal during a Penguins power play early in the second period. Roloson got his right pad out to prevent Staal from attempting to convert a shot that caromed off the end boards.
Seconds later, Roloson got across to get his chest up on Staal’s one-timer from the slot.