TAMPA BAY, Fla. (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning will square off in a pivotal Game 3 Monday night.
With the best-of-seven series tied 1-1, Game 3 becomes all that more important.
Pittsburgh will looking to take the next two games from the Lightning in order to return home Saturday night with a chance to close out the series in Game 5.
If that can’t happen, the Pens will need to earn a split to regain the home ice advantage that was lost in Game 2.
Eric Brewer and Simon Gagne each had three points in Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
Pittsburgh has done a good job of keeping Tampa Bay’s big guns off the scoresheet so far in the series.
Martin St. Louis (one goal, one assist), Vincent Lecavalier (one goal, zero assists) and Steven Stamkos have combined for only three points in the first two games of the series.
Stamkos has yet to record a point and is a minus-one with only two shots on net.
For Pittsburgh, Arron Asham (one goal, one assist) and Brooks Orpik (zero goals, two assists) lead the team with two points apiece in the series.
In order to be successful in Game 3, the Penguins’ top two lines need to step up and find the back of the net.
Not counting Chris Kunitz’s empty net goal in Game 1, the only forward on the top two lines to score is Alex Kovalev.
The lack of production isn’t for a lack of trying though. Mark Letestu leads the team with 10 shots on goal. Kovalev is a close second with eight, while Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, Zbynek Michalek and James Neal have fired six shots on net. Jordan Staal even has seven shots. So, the guys being counted on to score are at least peppering the cage, but they aren’t turning on the red lamp.
Pittsburgh outshot the Lightning 40-32 in Game 1 and 36-21 in Game 2. At times, the Penguins have been able to pin the Lightning in their own zone, but have just been unable to score.
Keys To Victory In Game 3
Weather The Storm
No, I’m not trying to get cute with the word play here.
Tampa Bay will be fired up to play in front of their fans for the first time since 2007 and will likely come out of the gate flying.
Pittsburgh will need to match their intensity and have a better start in Game 3 in order to avoid falling behind in the series.
The first 10 minutes will be a little hectic and I would expect it to be somewhat physical as Tampa Bay feeds off the crowd.
Or course, an early goal by the Penguins would quiet the crowd and stop the Bolts in their tracks.
Stay Out Of The Box
In Game 1, the Penguins only put Tampa Bay on the power play one time. In Game 2, the Lightning had six power play chances and scored on two of them.
While the Penguins’ penalty kill was the best in the league during the regular season, Tampa Bay’s power play was the best in the Eastern Conference.
If you give them enough chances, they are going to score based on the law of averages alone.
Break Out On The Power Play
I hate to keep harping on this, but it’s been a major factor in the series so far.
Pittsburgh is 0-for-13 on the power play through the first two games. During Sunday’s practice, the team worked on the power play for some time to try and fix the problem.
A lot of the issues could be fixed by simplifying their approach. During an intermission of Game 2 between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, Jeremy Roenick suggested the Pens take a one or two pass approach.
Essentially, pass once or twice and shoot. Make the penalty killers respect that anyone on the ice will pull the trigger at any given time.
By doing so, you don’t allow them to cheat to one player (Kovalev) and it keeps them on their toes.
Take It To The Net
Honestly, while the Penguins have outshot Tampa Bay in both games of the series, Dwayne Roloson has had it way too easy.
For a team comprised of mostly grinders at this point, someone needs to take the puck to the crease and pay the price to score a goal.
When the situation calls for it, take Roloson’s eyes away. Guys like James Neal, Jordan Staal, Mike Rupp, etc. should be firmly planted just outside the crease setting up screens and looking for deflections and rebounds.
They should be in Roloson’s face long enough for him to manually count the number of stitches in the nameplate on the back of the jersey.
Take his sight away and the back of his neck with start to turn a healthy shade of red.
The puck is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on Root Sports.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CaseySheaPens.