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Penguins shock Lightning 8-1

Chris Kunitz scored three goals, Evgeni Malkin got Pittsburgh going with a goal off the opening faceoff and the Penguins beat Tampa Bay 8-1 on Wednesday night. Alex Goligoski added a goal and set up three others and Kris Letang had three assists to help the Pens end a two-game losing streak.

Penguins 8 – Lightning 1

Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh

The Penguins hit the halfway point of the regular season in style as Evgeni Malkin scored seven seconds into the first period, the second fastest goal in franchise history and the first of five first-period goals, and Chris Kunitz recorded his first hat trick since 2006 in the Penguins’ 8-1 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In a game billed as a must-see matchup of two of the league’s best teams, both locked in a three-way tie with Philadelphia for the highest points total in the Eastern Conference, the lopsided contest fell short of expectations as a tired Tampa team, playing their second game in as many nights after an overtime shutout win over division rival Washington on Tuesday, made uncharacteristic mistakes and looked flat against a well-rested Pittsburgh squad.

“That’s definitely not their best hockey by any means,” Penguins’ center Sidney Crosby said. “We did the right things, we were in the right spots, had the right mindset going in. Having said that, they also made some big mistakes that they normally don’t make.”

Tyler Kennedy, Chris Conner, Mark Letestu and Alex Goligoski also added goals as six different Penguins scored. In a game that was expected to center around the star-power of Sidney Crosby and Steve Stamkos, Crosby recorded only one assist, his first point in two games, and Stamkos came up empty with his only highlight being an embarrassing trip, on a penalty shot attempt.


It seemed that Jordan Staal had quickly earned his first point of the season when linemate Evgeni Malkin scored on a breakaway seven seconds into the first period. Staal was originally credited with an assist before a review showed that Malkin scored unassisted. Staal’s opening faceoff loss deflected off of a Tampa player’s stick and straight to the blade of Malkin, who broke in alone on Roloson. Showing incredible patience and poise with the puck, Malkin made sure he had Roloson down and out before slipping it past the right post and into the net. Jean Pronovost is the only player in Penguins history to score a faster goal – six seconds into the opening period in 1976.

“We had a great start tonight,” Kunitz said. “That’s something that we haven’t had in previous games. We knew they had a tough game in Washington last night. Credit to our guys, we played hard (to start) and then kept going for the rest of the night.”

The Pens extended their lead when Ben Lovejoy’s shot from the point hit the outside of Chris Conner’s right skate and bounced into the net. Tyler Kennedy made the most of his opportunity skating with Staal and Malkin by adding Pittsburgh’s third goal, his second in 20 games, which chased Dwayne Roloson from the net. Dan Ellis barely had the chance to slush up his goal crease before allowing a goal 25 seconds later. After Pascal Dupuis stripped the puck from the opposition and developed an odd-man break with Chris Kunitz, Kunitz fired a wrist shot just under the crossbar. Number 14 notched his second goal of the night by tipping in Alex Goligoski’s shot from the point on the power play to make the score 5-0 with 1:04 to play in the first frame. It was Goligoski’s first point of what would become a four-point night for the defenseman.

Roloson returned to net to start the second period, but the game got even more discouraging for the Lightning when NHL darling Steve Stamkos lost an edge on his penalty shot attempt, sliding to the ice and past the net as Fleury cleared the puck out of danger. Crosby, Stamkos’ toughest competitor throughout the season, showed sympathy for the 20-year-old forward, though, and explained what most likely happened on the play.

“I’m sure he probably hit his skate off the post (when he was taken down before being awarded a penalty shot),” the Penguins’ captain said. “He probably had no edge. You don’t really have much time to get your skates (fixed) before you take a penalty shot.”

Mark Letestu managed an excellent Kris Letang impression 12:54 into the second period, faking out Roloson with a deke move before popping the goalie’s water bottle off of the net with a backhand, top-shelf goal. Marc-Andre Fleury robbed former teammate Ryan Malone on his odd-man break attempt to maintain his team’s six-goal lead. Victor Hedman’s boarding penalty allowed the Penguins to capitalize again on the power play as Chris Kunitz completed his hat trick, deflecting another Goligoski blast into the net to put the Pens up by 7 with 11 seconds left in the second period.

The third period saw the return of Ellis in goal, and another failed shutout attempt by Marc-Andre Fleury when former Penguin Adam Hall slipped a goal past the Penguins’ net-minder. Only 1:13 later, though, Goligoski answered with his first goal of the night and the Penguins’ 8th goal of the game. After assisting on three other goals, including two deflections, Goligoski finally buried one himself, blasting a shot past Ellis from the slot. After several distracting and hectic weeks came to a crescendo with the Winter Classic on Saturday, the Pens are looking forward to regaining their focus.

“I thought about a letdown after a hectic month,” Pens’ head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was a concern about getting back to our game, but the guys had a great week at practice and they came out with purpose and focus. They were ready to go and put the month behind them.”


Goals: PIT: Evgeni Malkin (15), Chris Conner (5), Tyler Kennedy (6), Chris Kunitz – 3 (11,12,13), Mark Letestu (9), Alex Goligoski (7); TB: Adam Hall (5)

Assists: PIT: Alex Goligoski 3, Kris Letang 3, Ben Lovejoy 2, Matt Cooke, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Chris Conner; TB: Nate Thompson, Dana Tyrell


Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 of 32 shots. Dwayne Roloson was the losing goaltender for Tampa, surrendering 5 goals on 23 shots, while Dan Ellis allowed 3 goals on 18 shots.


Pittsburgh: 2-4

Tampa Bay: 0-2


Chris Kunitz (1), Alex Goligoski (2), and Kris Letang (3)


The Penguins have no time to rest as they travel to Montreal Thursday to face the team that crushed their dream of becoming repeat Stanley Cup Champions last spring.

Penguins (26-12-3)

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