Rare mistakes costs Pens in loss to Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — The only thing more unlikely than Penguins center Jordan Staal turning over the puck in his own territory is goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowing a power-play goal.
Or the Penguins being blown out.
It was one of those nights.
Staal made a rare mistake, Fleury allowed power-play goals for the first time since April, and the Penguins again struggled to solve goaltender Dwayne Roloson — that would qualify as old news — in a 4-1 loss to the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday.
This was the first meeting between these teams since Roloson's 1-0 gem in Game 7 of the opening round of last season's Stanley Cup playoffs at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said "clearly the special teams battle," and not Roloson, was most responsible for the setback, and he had evidence to back up his statement.
The Penguins went 0 for 7 on the power play, including a painful sequence that saw them fail to score — or even register a golden opportunity — despite being presented with a 5-on-3 power play that lasted nearly two minutes in the third period.
"They're playing two guys up high on me and Geno (center Evgeni Malkin)," defenseman Kris Letang said of the team's recent troubles with two-man advantages. "(We need to start) working plays down low."
Although Roloson again was nearly unbeatable against the Penguins — right wing Tyler Kennedy ended the goaltender's shutout bid with a late goal — the Penguins didn't go out of their way to credit the veteran netminder.
Rather, they blamed themselves.
"He saw every shot we took," Letang said. "I don't think he had a tough night."
The night couldn't have started tougher for Fleury, whose first shot he faced was a breakaway by Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier. Staal had coughed up the puck to Lecavalier.
"The ice was bad," Letang said, explaining Staal's turnover.
The result of the mistake wasn't so good, either.
"I just wish I could have made the save," Fleury said, "and kept us in the game."
Some discouraging developments for the Penguins could be qualified as trends. The Penguins are making a bad habit of falling behind early in games: In their past four, they allowed the first goal against Dallas, fell behind 3-0 in a loss to Carolina and spotted Colorado a 3-1 lead before roaring back for a win.
This also marks the Penguins' fourth loss in their past five road games.
The inability to score on the 5-on-3, another recent trend, clearly irked the Penguins.
"They're taking away our shooters," left wing Chris Kunitz said.
The Penguins were outworked in front of the net on Tampa Bay's second goal, and struggling defenseman Paul Martin's diving gamble failed when right wing Steve Downie gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
Letang's turnover gave Lecavalier a late empty-net goal.
The Penguins enjoyed a couple of notable surges in the contest, especially late in the second period while trailing, 2-0. Malkin rang a shot of the post to Roloson's left, and left wing Steve Sullivan celebrated as though he jammed a loose puck by Roloson. However, the officials chose not to review the play.
The Penguins finish their road trip against the Panthers on Saturday night.
"I still think we're doing things the right way," Kunitz said. "But we need to play better."
Lightning, 1-0 (8:38): C Jordan Staal coughed up a puck deep in Penguins' territory, and Lightning C Vincent Lecavalier grabbed the loose puck and fired a backhand shot between G Marc-Andre Fleury's legs.
Lightning, 2-0 (4:08): C Brett Connolly earned position in front of the Penguins' net and deflected C Dominic Moore's shot past Fleury for a power play goal.
Lightning, 3-0 (2:04): RW Steve Downie took advantage of D Paul Martin falling to the ice and sent a wrist shot past Fleury's glove.
Lightning, 4-0 (15:49): Lecavalier took stole the puck from fallen D Kris Letang and scored into an empty net on a breakaway.
Penguins, 4-1 (16:59): RW Tyler Kennedy took a pass from Martin and fired a shot past Tampa Bay G Dwayne Roloson.