by Kaitlin Kennedy
The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4 to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Here’s a look at the outcomes for other playoff contenders with help from NHL.com.
No. 3 New Jersey Devils can clinch the Atlantic Division:
* If they get at least one point against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
* If the Philadelphia Flyers get one or no points against the Florida Panthers.
FINAL SCORE: Leafs 4 Devils 1
The Devils wouldn’t lock up their playoff spot just yet. With three 1st period goals by the Leafs, the Devils couldn’t catch up, and would have to wait another night.
No. 4 Philadelphia Flyers can clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth:
* If they get at least one point against the Florida Panthers.
* If the New York Rangers get one or no points against the Montreal Canadiens.
FINAL SCORE: Flyers 2 Panthers 1
Marty Biron held on for Philadelphia and locked up a playoff spot in the East.
No. 7 Montreal Canadiens can clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth:
* If they beat the New York Rangers.
* If they get one point against the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers get no points against the Philadelphia Flyers.
FINAL SCORE: Rangers 3 Canadiens 1
Chris Drury tallied 2 goals for the Rangers on their way to beat the Habs at home.
Penguins Pregame Notes
The Pens are 7-14-3 when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin don’t score goals, and they hope to end that 3 game skid tonight en route to their 3rd consecutive playoff appearance. Sidney Crosby has 11 points in 13 games against the Bolts this season. Penguins’ record this season against Tampa Bay is 2-1-0. Lightning have lost seven in a row and 10 of 11 games. Penguins are also 14-2-3 in their last 19 games.
The only lineup change noted is that Sergei Gonchar is moving up to the first line on defense and Eric Godard is in. Craig Adams and Philippe Boucher are the healthy scratches.
1st Period Breakdown
First line forwards of Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin took the ice for the opening faceoff. Right away, the Penguins show hustle and solid defense with Sergei Gonchar and Brooks Orpik paired up.
Marc-Andre Fleury was 9-1-2 in the month of March with a 1.87 GAA and .938 save percentage, and looks to keep it up in April and throughout the playoffs.
Pittsburgh got into a shooting rhythm quickly, as Matt Cooke led the offense in shooting. Tyler Kennedy was also boosting the energy and constantly set up shots for his linemates in front. Eric Godard was looking sharp and skating fast.
First power play of the game went to the Lightning at 8:44 with a Petr Sykora slashing penalty. Shortly after at 9:45 Hal Gill was given a penalty for delay of game, putting the Bolts on a quick 5 on 3. Tampa Bay would go 0 for 6 on the night with the man advantage. Kris Letang looking especially strong on the Pens penalty kill.
No goals scored this period.
Winning Team: Despite the penalties, the Penguins are looking like a playoff caliber team with remarkable penalty killing. They’re the team to beat right now.
2nd Period Breakdown
Tampa Bay starting to show some energy off the opening draw, but that wouldn’t last long. Just 1:25 into the period, Paul Szczechura was sent to the box on a delay of game penalty. Immediately after at 1:55 Jeff Halpern got caught hooking. The Penguins didn’t make anything happen on the power play, but at 5:00 Ruslan Fedotenko struck first with a nice set up from Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.
Former Penguin Ryan Malone left the game with an injury in the middle of the period. It was later concluded that he broke his right hand and will miss the rest of the season.
Lots of special teams hockey was being played, and the Penguins never let up on their penalty kill. They had three penalties in the period, and that didn’t cause them any trouble.
At 10:08, Sidney Crosby breaks through with a power play goal from Kunitz and Malkin. That assist got Malkin point number 300 for his career. He also tallied 30-plus goals in three straight seasons and has broken the 100-point mark for the second consecutive season.
A short minute and four seconds later, Sid the Kid makes the Lightning pay again with another power play goal at 11:12, with assists coming again from Kunitz and Malkin.
Geno is also contributing to the defense by blocking two Tampa Bay shots on their next drive to the net and keeping the puck away from Fleury on the rebounds.
Winning Team: The Penguins are on fire and looking to bury the Bolts. Two Crosby goals were just the beginning of a huge morale boost. Exceptional penalty kill and puck protection by Marc-Andre Fleury and the defense is key to keeping the Lightning at bay.
3rd Period Breakdown
Just a mere 1:08 into the period, Matt Cooke gets on the scoreboard with his 12th goal of the season, assists from Staal and Kennedy. He took a high stick to the face afterwards, but no penalty was called.
Bill Guerin comes to Max Talbot and Sergei Gonchar’s aid by scrapping with David Koci, former Penguin. The initial hit on Talbot got Koci 10 minutes for misconduct, 5 for fighting, and 2 minutes for roughing. He wouldn’t return to the game. This would give the Penguins a power play.
A short-handed goal by Jeff Halpern at 4:31, and an assist from Szczechura is slowly cutting the Tampa Bay deficit. The Lightning passed up two 5 on 3 power play opportunities already, but cash in here and get on the board.
Tampa Bay was starting to scare the Penguins with another goal by Martin St. Louis at 8:59 from rookie Steve Stamkos.
There was an obvious hole in the Penguins’ defense. Less than a minute later, Szczechura find the back of the net. Three unanswered Tampa goals.
Bylsma took a timeout to get the Penguins’ heads back in the game, and it worked. Petr Sykora scores goal number 300 of his career to regain a 2 goal lead. Assist from Fedotenko.
Turning on the overdrive, the Bolts empty the net. At 19:20, Halpern gets his 2nd goal of the night.
Twenty seconds later, a mishandled pass by Steve Stamkos leads to a Jordan Staal empty net goal. The Pens lock up the game, and their 3rd consecutive playoff berth!
Winning Team: Tampa Bay gets credit for 3 unanswered goals, but the Penguins didn’t let it get to them. They’re soaring into the playoffs with the hopes of bring the Cup back to the Burgh.
-Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin assisted on both of Sidney Crosby’s power play goals.
-Max Talbot and David Koci were both teammates on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
-Matt Cooke has 3 goals in his last 5 games.
-Petr Sykora scored his 300th goal in 919 games.
-Evgeni Malkin notched his 300th point of his career.
-Former Penguin Ryan Malone is out for the rest of the season with a broken right hand.
Three Stars of the Game
3. Jeff Halpern (TB)
2. Jordan Staal (PIT)
1. Sidney Crosby (PIT)
Thursday night the Penguins are back home to take on the New York Islanders. Lets Go Pens!!
by Kaitlin Kennedy