The Pittsburgh Penguins made it 8-wins in a row on Thursday night as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 and continued their domination of the Southeast Division. Jordan Staal awoke from a deep slumber to post 3-points (2G, 1A) and Ty Conklin made 35-saves to continue his unbeaten streak for his 9th consecutive win. The win snapped Pittsburgh’s 12-game losing streak against Tampa Bay, who has been struggling this year. The marquee matchup between the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Sidney Crosby and NHL current scoring leader Vinny Lecavalier ended unceremoniously for both players, as neither of the superstars recorded a point.
In the 1st period, the Lightning outshot the Penguins 13-8 but neither team was able to put the puck in the net. Ty Conklin was once again a stone wall in the net, making a particularly impressive glove stop on Vinny Lecavalier. Both teams were 0-for-1 in the period on the power play as Ryan Whiteney and Martin St Louis each picked up tripping penalties.
In the 2nd, the Lighthning struck first at 4:11 on an even strength goal by Paul Ranger. Brad Richards and Mathieu Darche were credited with the assists. The Penguins responded 8-minutes later with a deflection by Jordan Staal off a hard shot by Petr Sykora that caught the upper left hand corner of the net. Defenseman Kris Letang picked up the other assist. Staal was uncertain as to whether he touched the puck, but he was credited with the power play goal. Then at 14:11, Jordan Staal struck again. Playing along the wall, Petr Sykora threw the puck to the side of the Lightning net. The puck bounced back off the net and onto Staal’s skate, which he used to kick the puck to his stick and then he slipped it through the five-hole of the goaltender Karri Ramo, avoiding a poke check in the process. Ryan Malone picked up the other assist on Staal’s 2nd goal of the night. The Penguins outshot the Lightning 10-9 in the 2nd and were 1-for-1 on the power play. The Penguins killed off their only penalty of the period.
Just 1:28 into the 3rd period, the Tampa Bay Lightning were given a golden opportunity to even the score when Maxime Talbot, playing his first game since missing 13 for a high ankle sprain, was called for a double-minor high stick infraction. The only problem, it was actually a fellow Lightning teammate’s high stick and not Talbot’s. The Penguins battled through the adversity of the bad call and Ty Conklin kept the puck out of the net. At 17:21, Ryan Malone notched his 10th of the season, an insurance marker from Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal. Then, with just 12-seconds left in the game, Evgeni Malkin took a pass from Sergei Gonchar and netted his 20th of the season into the empty Tampa Bay net to complete the scoring at 4-1. Ty Conklin turned aside 14-shots in the 3rd as the Penguins were outshot 14-11.
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Petr Sykora picked up 3-assists in the game. Sidney Crosby failed to earn a point and ended a 9-game scoring streak. Erik Christensen and Tyler Kennedy both missed the game due to the flu. Ryan Stone and Max Talbot stepped up in place of the two. The Penguins extended their record to 25-16-2 for 52-points and are undefeated in January. They have now gone 18-5-0 since their Thanksgiving Day win over the Ottawa Senators. They still trail the New Jersey Devils by 1-point for the Atlantic Division lead after the Devils beat the Hurricanes 4-1 on Thursday. The Penguins travel to Atlanta to take on the Thrashers on Saturday evening at 7PM.