Kunitz scores hat trick as Penguins thrash Lightning, 8-1
The Penguins probably wish HBO had stuck around another week.
In their most dominant performance of the season, the Penguins scored early and often — and were aided by one of the more bizarre penalty shots in NHL history — in an 8-1 win over the Lightning.
Chris Kunitz recorded his second career hat trick to lead an impressive performance by the Penguins' offense.
"It was kind of refreshing to get some of the cameras out of here," Defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "It was back to work."
And the Penguins didn't take long in dismissing any thoughts of a lapse following the much-hyped Winter Classic.
• The eight goals are the most the Penguins have scored all season and the most in Consol Energy Center history.
• Evgeni Malkin scored seven seconds into the game. It marked the fastest goal to start a game in Consol Energy Center history and the second fastest goal in Penguins history.
• Goligoski recorded a career-high four points with a goal and three assists.
• Kunitz's hat trick was his first with the Penguins.
• The five goals in the first period were the most the Penguins have scored in an opening period since a five-goal effort Dec. 26, 1992 against Washington.
"We came out hard," Kunitz said. "We earned the chances we got and capitalized on them."
Malkin stole the opening faceoff from Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier and beat recently acquired goalie Dwayne Roloson just seven seconds in. The Lightning, only 24 hours removed from a grueling win in overtime in Washington, never threatened the Penguins in this contest.
Chris Conner scored 2:17 later as Ben Lovejoy's slap shot deflected off the winger's skate and in.
Tyler Kennedy and Kunitz then scored two goals 25 seconds apart to essentially put the game away. Kunitz made it 5-0 late in the period with his second goal.
Sidney Crosby, who finished with an assist, was happy to see his left wing get the hat trick.
"He does all the little things," Crosby said. "He created a lot of chances tonight."
Kunitz added his second goal via deflection for the hat trick, and Mark Letestu scored a pretty goal to make it 7-0. The most memorable play from the second period, though, was Steven Stamkos' penalty shot gone bad.
The league's second leading goal scorer, who burned Montreal's Carey Price for a penalty shot goal last week, was awarded the opportunity after being tripped by Lovejoy. He broke in on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury but tripped just past the blue line. Fleury pounced on the puck, while Stamkos slid into the boards behind the net.
Crosby admitted that seeing Stamkos in an embarrassing moment like that wasn't pleasant to watch.
"Yeah," Crosby said. "You don't want him to score, but at the same time, something like that could happen to anyone. He probably lost an edge before when he was skating to the net and couldn't get it fixed before the penalty shot."
Fleury wasn't complaining and admitted he had only seen such a bizarre moment occur on television.
"Once in a while on Top 10 bloopers," he said. "Never against me. Good for the stats, at least."
It was a good night for everyone's stats.
Tampa's Adam Hall and Goligoski scored in the third period.
Kris Letang, in his first game since being named to the NHL All-Star Game, added three assists.
"There was no point when they had anything too threatening," Goligoski said. "Everyone was on. Just a really good game."