These playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been dangerous when Sidney Crosby hasn't scored. Now that Crosby has started to thaw offensively Pittsburgh looks that much more dangerous in their Eastern Conference Final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Crosby scored a power play goal and Pittsburgh's third line led by Phil Kessel scored two in a dominating 4-2 performance by the Penguins at Amalie Arena.
The Penguins hold a 2-1 series lead over the Lightning with Game 4 Friday in Tampa.
Pittsburgh outshot the Lightning 48-28. They also had 78 shot attempts to Tampa’s 50.
"I think just every lines been doing a good job of holding on to pucks," Crosby said of the lopsided shot total. "That's the biggest thing. They're a big (defense). They're really physical down low. You really have to be strong in that area. I think we played a pretty simple game. Just try to keep it simple as best we can and really been strong on the puck, and it's worked for us."
Before Game 2 of this series, Crosby hadn’t scored a goal since Game 4 of his team’s first-round series against the New York Rangers. Before Wednesday’s Game 3, superstar teammate Evgeni Malkin hadn’t picked up a point since Game 2 against the Washington Capitals in the second-round.
Crosby scored the overtime winner in Game 2, but it was unclear heading into Game 3 that he’d carry the momentum.
With the Penguins holding a 2-1 lead over the Lightning midway through the third period, Malkin found Crosby on a 4-on-3 power play and Crosby finished the shot past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Before then, the line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Kessel carried the Penguins. At the 19:50 mark of the second period that trio took advantage of a turnover by Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin deep in the Penguins zone. Kessel flew up the ice on a rush and fired a shot on Vasilevskiy. Hagelin put home the rebound to make it 1-0.
Then at the 15:16 mark of the the third period, Kessel fired a shot off a feed from Bonino that beat Vasilevskiy to put the game at 2-0 in favor of Pittsburgh.
"Phil obviously has a great shot. (Bonino) is a real good playmaker, and (Hagelin) brings so much to that -- to the other two guys. They seem to complement each other very well," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "But there's no question they've got some huge goals for us throughout the course of this playoffs."
Tyler Johnson’s goal at the 5:30 mark of the third and Ondrej Palat’s goal at the 18:16 mark of the third were the only tallies for the Lightning.
Tampa said they expected a better effort in Game 3 from Game 2 but still struggled offensively and defensively.
In Game 3, Tampa allowed 41 shots on goal and fired just 21 shots on goal. Pittsburgh attempted 69 shots on goal to Tampa’s 44. This entire series, the Lightning haven been outshot 124-69 by Pittsburgh in three games.
"Well, yeah, you don't have a good chance of winning if you don't have the puck," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said." It's something that we've been pretty good at in the last couple years, and when they've got the puck more than us, now you're chasing a little bit. As I said, that one time for ten minutes, it was a long stretch, and we got kind of stuck in our zone. But the volume of shots we're giving up and some of the chances we're giving up are just way too many. "
Cooper may have found a formula for hope. He reunited The Triplets line in the third period and they got him two goals. Forward Nikita Kucherov had two assists in this game – his first points of the series. He hadn’t scored a goal after coming into the Eastern Conference Final with nine goals in 10 games. Johnson’s goal was his first this series.
"You need more production than just the same guys each night," Cooper said. "When we're doing well, we're getting production from everybody. That's kind of what you -- you know, you just can't rely on the same bunch of guys the whole time. So those guys will be together again. Sometimes they will. Sometimes they won't."
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