Penguins come up short at Lightning in 2nd leg of back-to-back games
TAMPA, Fla. — Run and gun hockey can be fun.
For the fans, for the players, for the viewers.
Not so much for the coaches, particularly when their team comes out on the wrong end of the ledger.
Even with some of the top offensive players in the game, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan would prefer not to be involved too often in games such as the Penguins’ 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at Amalie Arena.
“We don’t want to be a team that trades chance for chance because you can’t control your destiny if you play that way,” Sullivan said. “You’ll win some games, but you are going to lose some, too.”
On Thursday, the Penguins fell one goal short in a game that had the feel of “last shot wins” as the teams went back and forth. But the Penguins were never able to fully catch up after allowing a goal with 0.1 seconds left in the first period.
The Penguins got goals from Bryan Rush, Conor Sheary, Jake Guentzel and Matt Hunwick, but Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were kept off the scoresheet. The two Penguins stars had combined for 39 goals and 94 points in 68 career games against Tampa Bay.
“There were a lot of Grade-A scoring chances at both ends of the rink, it was one of those types of games. It was a track meet,” Sullivan said. “It’s hard to win consistently in this league if you play that way, and our guys know that.”
The teams traded goals in the opening minutes of the first period, with Guentzel getting a deflection on Kris Letang’s shot four seconds after a power play expired. But with the Penguins killing a penalty late, Victor Hedman regained his own rebound and fired a shot past Antti Niemi, making his second start of the season, just before the buzzer went off.
Steven Stamkos then scored a power-play goal 3:49 in to the second period — his first goal since Nov. 15 — to give the Lightning a two-goal lead.
From that point on, the teams traded goals in the second period. Rust and Sheary scored for the Penguins, with Hunwick getting Pittsburgh within a goal at 10:01 of the third period on a rebound of a Greg McKegg shot.
“We let them get out of range a couple of times, especially when they went up 5-3. I think that was a bit of a dagger for us,” Sheary said. “We fought hard, especially in the third, had a lot of scoring chances, unfortunately we weren’t able to put another one in.”
Guentzel had the tying goal on his stick at the 12:40 mark on a breakaway chance, but his attempt through the five-hole was snuffed out by Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. In the track meet, it was Tampa Bay that crossed the finish line first.
“It’s tough. You want to play offense, that’s the fun part of the game,” defenseman Justin Schultz said. “But you have to take care of your own end, take of the puck. We didn’t do too bad of a job of that tonight, but they are a skilled team and they are going to capitalize.”
Sullivan said they tried to get the game back under control from behind the bench.
“We tried hard to play a more disciplined game in a game that wasn’t,” he said.