Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Lightning not about to revel in rout

Categories: PIT vs. TAM, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Veteran playoff performer Simon Gagne had a strong game for Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon, but the Lightning aren't getting carried away despite a lopsided win in Pittsburgh. (Gene Puskar/Associated Press) Veteran playoff performer Simon Gagne had a strong game for Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon, but the Lightning aren't getting carried away despite a lopsided win in Pittsburgh. (Gene Puskar/Associated Press)

Tampa Bay's only real goal going into Game 5 of its opening-round playoff series with Pittsburgh Saturday was to make sure there was a Game 6.

The Lightning did that, all right.

And a lot more.

Tampa Bay's 8-2 victory at Consol Energy Center was the Penguins' worst home-ice playoff loss in franchise history.

Not that the Lightning particularly cared about carving out a spot in Pittsburgh's record book.

"It's been really tight hockey, but 8-2 or 3-2, it's only one game," Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "It's only one. We're still down and we have a lot of work to do."

The Penguins have a 3-2 lead in the series, which will resume with Game 6 Monday night in Tampa. Game 7, if necessary, will be in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Tampa Bay's victory not only was the most lopsided postseason defeat the Penguins have absorbed, but dropped Pittsburgh's record to 0-5 when they've had a chance to close out a series at home since Dan Bylsma succeeded Michel Therrien as coach in 2009.

Their chances of breaking that slump looked relatively good early, as the Penguins controlled most of the first period. But Simon Gagne put Tampa Bay in front at 16:57 and after Steven Stamkos made it 2-0 46 seconds later, Pittsburgh seemed to lose their composure and focus.

"After they got a couple of goals, we started coming unraveled a little bit," left wing Mike Rupp said. "We were getting upset with the referees ... you know, kind of got away from it."

By the time the Penguins got themselves together, Lecavalier, Gagne, Stamkos and Pavel Kubina (two) had put the Lightning up by seven. Rupp and Chris Conner scored for Pittsburgh in the third before Dominic Moore punctuated Tampa Bay's victory with the final goal of the game.

"We got away from our game a little," Penguins centre Max Talbot said. "It hurts. We see what can happen.

"They definitely put their chances in the net. They won a couple of battles in front of our net. We had to readjust and be more focused on those areas."

They also figure to take a renewed look at their penalty killing. Pittsburgh led the league in that category during the regular season, but Tampa Bay torched it for four power-play goals Saturday, and has eight in the series.

"They're a dangerous group," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "We have not done a good job in enough areas to keep them away from dangerous aspects of what they do."

Despite their miserable showing in Game 5, the Penguins still have the upper hand in this best-of-seven.

"The series isn't over," Stamkos said. "We stayed alive for one more game, and that's what we wanted."

Stamkos gets rewarded

Game 5 was a coming-out party of sorts for Stamkos, who had two goals and an assist after managing just one assist in the previous four games.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher, though, believes Stamkos actually had taken a major step forward in Game 4.

"I'm real happy for Stamkos because I thought the last game, he played a great game and it just didn't pay off for him," Boucher said. "Today, it paid off.

"He was a major warrior last game, and in this game. This kid has figured out what the playoffs are all about. I knew at some point (it would happen), because he has character. I was just hoping it was this year."

Blowout blowback?

While players on both sides pointed out that winning, not the margin of victory, is all that matters, it will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh responds to such a severe beating.

After Game 5, the consensus is their room was that, if anything, such a one-side game is easier to deal with than one that is hotly contested for 60 minutes or more.

"The harder games are those triple-overtime games," Rupp said. "The ones where you're that close. We weren't that close."

Talbot cited an example from the 2009 playoffs, which ended with Pittsburgh celebrating the third championship in team history, to show that losing badly doesn't necessarily have a carryover effect.

"We can go back to Game 5 of the [2009] Stanley Cup final," he said. "We lost, 5-0. A loss is a loss. The good thing is that tomorrow, we'll get on a plane and we've got Game 6 ahead."

Gagne leads the way

Tampa Bay's best players were its best players in Game 5, and there might not have been anyone better than Simon Gagne.

He scored the Lightning's first and fourth goals, and was visible almost every time he went over the boards.

"Gagne's a guy for big moments," Boucher said. "He's been like that his whole career. Today was a big moment, and he was there."

Malkin begins long haul

He's not going to be back in this series - or even this spring, no matter how long Pittsburgh is involved in the playoffs - but Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin is back on the ice.

He has skated lightly the past couple of days, a step in his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery Feb. 10 that will prevent him from playing until training camp.

"He's doing well," Bylsma said. "But getting on the ice for him right now is really more to get his skates on, test the ice.

"It's not really part of a rehab or him getting back into game shape. It's good for him to be getting on the ice, but he's [10] weeks into a long haul.
"To get on the ice is probably more for his mindset than it is to get him ready for a practice situation or anything."