Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning edges Penguins

TAMPA — Watching the Lightning-Penguins showdown Thursday night in sold-out Amalie Arena, a couple of thoughts came to mind.

These might be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

And wouldn't it be fun to see this matchup in a seven-game playoff series this spring?

The Lightning held on to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions 5-4 in a thrilling, bring-your-Rolaids kind of shootout in front of 19,092. Yes, it's only October. And yes, Pittsburgh was in the second of back-to-back games and playing its backup goalie.

But that didn't make this victory any less significant for Tampa Bay, which hadn't beaten Pittsburgh since the 2016 Eastern Conference final. The Lightning lost all three meetings last season, when it stunningly missed the playoffs.

"We just won a hockey game against the defending champs," coach Jon Cooper said. "So I think any coach would be happy to win the game."

RELATED: Steven Stamkos scores his first goal since injury.

For all the hype surrounding the Lightning season, Cooper believed this week's homestand — against the Capitals, Penguins and Blues on Saturday — would be a barometer. And to win the first two games, including Monday's 4-3 come-from-behind overtime win over Washington, could be the boost Tampa Bay needs to get off to the kind of strong start that was elusive the past two seasons.

"Those two teams, the Capitals and Penguins, are both teams we've always had a lot of trouble with in the past couple years," said Alex Killorn, who had a career-high four assists. "To get two wins at the beginning of the season against them in front of our home crowd, it's huge momentum. We want to keep going, keep building."

There was an unlikely hero for the Lightning, with defenseman Slater Koekkoek scoring his first two NHL goals, his second one the winner. Koekkoek, who played just three minutes Monday, scored on two of his three shots, the first a changeup shot from the point that got deflected by the Penguins' Tom Kuhnhackl. Koekkoek chuckled on his way back to the bench after the milestone goal.

"Someone was watching over me," he said, smiling. "I'll take it."

RELATED: Joe Smith's takeaways from Thursday's Lightning-Penguins game.

The usual suspects also came through for Tampa Bay (3-1-0). Steven Stamkos scored his first goal since mid-November knee surgery, fittingly a one-timer on a power play. Victor Hedman got a buzzer-beater, a goal with .1 seconds left in the first period that gave the Lightning the lead for good. Nikita Kucherov scored his fourth goal in as many games. And goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made sure the lead held up, stopping 36 of 40 shots.

Vasilevskiy's biggest save came midway through the third, with Tampa Bay clinging to a one-goal lead. Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel got free on a breakaway, but Vasilevskiy thwarted his five-hole attempts. "That was a game-saver for us," Stamkos said.

25TH ANNIVERSARY FLASHBACK: The Lightning's inaugural season was full of heart.

There are still plenty of things for the Lightning to improve on. As exciting as the pace Tampa Bay played with was, it can't consistently win if it gives up 40 shots a game.

"It seemed like it was game where there wasn't a whole lot of defense played on either side," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "There were a lot of Grade A scoring chances at both ends of the ice. It was one of those types of games. It was a track meet. It seemed like the last shot was going to win."

It was a track meet. And it is one many Lightning fans would no doubt like to see repeated in the spring.

Lightning 2 3 0 5
Penguins 1 2 1 4
Lightning 2 3 0 5
Penguins 1 2 1 4

 

First Period1, Tampa Bay, Koekkoek 1 (Stralman, Kunitz), 6:07. 2, Pittsburgh, Guentzel 2 (Rust, Letang), 13:46. 3, Tampa Bay, Hedman 1 (Killorn, Kucherov), 19:59 (pp). PenaltiesGirardi, TB, (tripping), 11:42; Reaves, PIT, (holding), 14:07; Letang, PIT, (delay of game), 18:39.

Second Period4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 1 (Killorn, Namestnikov), 3:49 (pp). 5, Pittsburgh, Sheary 3 (Ruhwedel, Niemi), 8:58. 6, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 4 (Coburn, Killorn), 9:49. 7, Pittsburgh, Rust 1 (Guentzel, Maatta), 14:24 (pp). 8, Tampa Bay, Koekkoek 2 (Johnson, Killorn), 17:55. PenaltiesRowney, PIT, (slashing), 3:37; Coburn, TB, (slashing), 6:05; Hagelin, PIT, (interference), 10:06; Dumont, TB, (tripping), 12:55; Koekkoek, TB, (interference), 15:45.

Third Period9, Pittsburgh, Hunwick 1 (McKegg, Kessel), 10:01. PenaltiesJohnson, TB, (interference), 2:14; Kessel, PIT, (slashing), 19:02. Shots on GoalPittsburgh 12-16-12—40. Tampa Bay 16-12-6—34. Power-play opportunitiesPittsburgh 1 of 5; Tampa Bay 2 of 5. GoaliesPittsburgh, Niemi 0-2-0 (34 shots-29 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 3-1-0 (40-36). A19,092 (19,092). T2:41.

Lightning edges Penguins 10/12/17 [Last modified: Friday, October 13, 2017 1:05am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  2. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  3. Bucs journal: LB Kwon Alexander ready to return from injury

    Bucs

    TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the second quarter of the Bucs' season opener against Chicago, will finally make a healthy return Sunday against the Bills.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander needs “to get my stats back up” after being out since the opener.
  4. A rare treat Saturday for Rowdies: a home playoff game

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rowdies fans, set to be rewarded with their first home playoff match in five years, can also take a little credit for it.

    From left, Georgi Hristov, Joe Cole and Marcel Schafer are among the Rowdies’ top scorers.
  5. Why it's too early to give up on the Bucs

    Bucs

    Don't panic. It's not too late for the Bucs.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrate after the defense recovered a fumble during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times