The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in the shootout in the preseason opener for both teams on Saturday night at Mellon Arena.
While recapping preseason games probably seems like a joke to 99 percent of the people reading this article, it's been a long offseason, and needless to say, I need to get back into regular season form.
The game wasn't aired on TV, due to FSN Pittsburgh's "prior commitment" to college football (aka the Pens' TV crew was at a bar on the South Side tonight).
I listened to the game via the internet radio broadcast, which featured some joke that announces the Bolts' games. It was painful, but at least it was hockey. So, for the first time this season, here we go...
The Bolts would hardly be icing a lineup that looked remotely close to that of their opening night lineup. Former Penguins Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, and Mark Recchi were out of the lineup, as well as newly named Captain Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
The Pens suited up most of their big boys, with the exception of Max Talbot, Matt Cooke, Hal Gill, and Ruslan Fedotenko.
Fleury got the nod for the Pens between the pipes and would be matched up against Karri Ramo for the Bolts.
Stamkos and Crosby met in the faceoff circle for the drop of the puck. Stamkos won the draw, erasing any questions as to who will eventually be regarded as the better number one pick.
51 seconds into the game, Jordan Staal took a pass from Malkin in the neutral zone and soared over the blue line into the attacking zone. Staal unleashed a quick wrist shot from the right circle, beating Karri Ramo over the shoulder and giving the Pens the early 1-0 advantage.
The Pens went on the power play, giving us our first glimpse of what could turn out to be one of the best power play units in the league this year. Therrien sent out Gonchar-Malkin-Satan-Crosby-Staal for the power play.
The power play seemed to have a few decent chances, the best coming off of a Satan centering pass to Crosby, which Sid failed to handle cleanly. The power play expired without Ramo having to make any out-of-the-ordinary saves.
Former Penguins' prospect, David Koci put a solid check on Sergei Gonchar, which caused Gonch to leave the ice for the remainder of the game. In response to the hit, new Penguin goon, Eric Godard decided to have a go-round with Koci. It sounded like a solid fight, with each guy throwing a good number of punches. It's good to see Godard knows his role and isn't hesitant to drop the mits in defense of his assistant captain.
The first period ends with the Pens still enjoying a 1-0 lead.
Early in the second period, former Penguin number eight-ninety-seven on the Bolts' roster, Michel Ouellet finds himself all alone in the slot. If you were a Penguins' fan during the 2006-07 season, I don't even have to tell you that Ouellet completely missed the net.
At the end of a Kris Beech penalty, Janne Niskala ripped a quick wrist shot past Fleury to even the score at one. This would mark the beginning of the Lightning rattling off three consecutive goals in the second period.
After a Ryan Stone/Zenon Konopka fight, a dude named Wyatt Smith, probably distantly related to Will Smith simply because he is a beast, scored to make it 2-1 Bolts.
The Bolts' Brandon Bochenski scored at 8:40 of the second to extend their lead to 3-1.
Janne Pesonen thinks he has scored a goal off of a rebound during a delayed penalty, but the play is reviewed and the goal is waived off because the play had been blown dead. I would have paid the price of admission to see Michel Therrien's, bruised ribs and all, response to that call.
The result of the confusion leaves the Pens with a 5-on-3 power play. Satan scooped up a rebound and got the puck to Sykora on the right side. Sykie ripped one of his lethal wrist shots past Ramo to pull the Pens a little closer. The score remains 3-2 Bolts at the end of the second period.
The early-goings of the third period seemed pretty dull. Stamkos got his second scoring chance of the game, but was denied by Fleury.
Halfway through the period, the Pens went on the power play again. Alex Goligoski got the puck to the net, where Petr Sykora found himself in the right place at the right time to scoop up the rebound and beat Ramo for his second goal of the game. 3-3.
The game quickly turned into a battle for two points, even though it was merely a battle to say "we won our first preseason game."
Shorthanded, Crosby came up ice on a two-on-one with Bill Thomas. Crosby does his best Ovechjoke impersonation and hangs onto the puck instead of forcing a cross-ice pass. Sid flicks a quick backhand shot over the shoulder of Ramo to give the Pens a 4-3 lead.
Some sloppy Penguins' defense led to Bochenski cashing in again, with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Bochenski evened the score at four and the game was headed to overtime.
The Penguins' second line of Staal-Malkin-Sykora had three good chances to end the game in overtime, but Ramo stood tall. A shootout would decide the winner.
Miro Satan was the first shooter for the Pens. He came with speed to the net, went to the backhand, but was denied by Ramo.
Jussi JOKE-inen was up first for the Bolts. He slowed down near the crease and was able to beat Fleury. 1-0 Bolts.
Malkin was the second shooter for the Pens. He faked a slap shot and let a wrister go that clanked off the post. Close, but no cigar.
Stamkos got a chance to showcase some of that goal scoring ability that has been talked about since he was drafted first overall by the Lightning. He didn't disappoint as he beat Fleury through the five hole to secure the win for the Lightning.
Final Score: Tampa Bay 5 Pittsburgh 4
- The Pens seemed to play a sloppy game because it was the preseason. The Bolts seemed to play a sloppy game because their roster was littered with AHL-ers.
- There is no official word on Gonchar's injury; however, the dreaded three letters, "MRI", were used by the announcer on two separate occasions.
- Fleury was a little disappointing. Everything I've read has praised MAF's training camp performance, but four goals on 30 shots leaves a lot of room for improvement.
- Stamjokes belongs in the NHL. Barring an unreal season by Filatov, we're looking at the new Calder Trophy winner.
- Crosby led the Penguins with seven shots on goal. A very reassuring stat considering that I couldn't count on both hands how many games I begged for Crosby to shoot the puck more last season. Malkin led the team with 26:50 of ice time.
- This recap is rocky to say the least. Believe me, recapping games isn't like riding a bike. It becomes increasingly harder to do the longer you go without doing it.
- The Pens resume preseason action on Monday night when they square off against the Bolts again, at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida.
Full recap at Experiencing the Evolution.