Penguins embarrassed by Lightning
TAMPA – When the lunar eclipse hit its peak outside the St. Pete Times Forum around 8 p.m. on Saturday night, the Penguins’ meltdown inside was just getting underway.
An hour later, it, too, was at its peak. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three goals in four-and-a-half minutes late in the second period to blow open the game and take a five-goal lead into the third period. Then they added four more in the third period to hand the Penguins a 9-0 loss, their worst since falling, 9-0, to the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 28, 2000.
“At the beginning of the year I talked about those 20 games a year when you’re not really good,” said coach Eddie Olczyk, who paced the hallway for several minutes after the game before going in to talk to the players. “The fear was that it was going to get out of hand because we just did not have it, and (the Lightning) had it.”
The game started in the now all-too-familiar fashion, with the Penguins falling behind early, in the all-too-familiar way of botched coverage in their own end leaving an opponent wide open. It ended after goaltender Sebastien Caron was pulled after giving up the eighth goal of the game and Marc-Andre Fleury came in to give up the ninth and final Lightning goal to Ruslan Fedotenko.
In between, the Penguins (3-7-3-0) had 15 shots on goal, Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier scored his second career hat trick against the Penguins, including one short-handed goal to bring the Penguins’ league-worst total to seven. The Penguins took 11 penalties for a total of 41 minutes, including a misconduct to Martin Straka for having words with the referee. And they were shut out for the second time this season by one of the best teams in the NHL.
“This is as bad as it can get, yes,” said defenseman Marc Bergevin, one of three players to end up even instead of minus in the game. “Obviously the message didn’t get through. … We got embarrassed, 9-0.”
The game was over long before it got completely out of hand, however. It was over in the first period, when the Penguins were unable to score — or to really pose much of a threat – on a seven-minute power play while trailing by just one goal.
They managed a handful of shots, but nothing that came close to challenging Nikolai Khabibulin, the NHL’s defensive player of the month for October.
After that, Fredrik Modin scored to make it 2-0 after a 3-on-2 break with 17 seconds left in the period.
“We got seven minutes power play and that’s the game right there,” Straka said. “We got a couple shots, that’s all. You have to score if you want to win the game. You have to score on the power play, especially if you have seven minutes. And we didn’t. Then they get one chance and they score a goal.”
Lecavalier scored his first of the night after he took the puck right off the stick of defenseman Dan Focht about 15 feet in front of the Penguins’ net for a shorthanded breakaway to start the second-period onslaught. The Lightning were coming off two losses in a row after starting the season 7-0-1-0.
Caron appeared to be injured just before that, requiring a visit from trainer Scott Johnson. He continued to play.
“I just got him out of there because he didn’t need to be … that’s the only reason,” Olczyk said.
Karen Price is a former freelancer.