2011 NHL Playoffs: Penguins Take Game One, Defeat Lightning 3-0 Behind Marc-Andre Fleury's 32-Save Shutout

For more on the Penguins vs. Lightning series, check out PensBurgh and Raw Charge.

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Lightning Vs. Penguins: Martin St. Louis Has Double Root Canal

The Post-Gazette reports that the Tampa Bay Lightning's Martin St. Louis received a double root canal late on Wednesday after being struck in the face with a stick by Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek in Game One of the two teams' NHL playoff series.

"I'm just happy it wasn't higher. It might have concussed me," St. Louis said. "So I'll take the teeth instead of the concussion" ...

Michalek was not penalized. St. Louis, who was low to the ice when he got hit, seemed to think Michalek should have been but declined to say so directly.

"He just swung his stick, careless a bit with his stick," St. Louis said. "It is what it is."

It sounds like St. Louis has calmed down a bit. During the game he looked furious, and understandably so, ranting and raving even as you could see the blood in his mouth. While it doesn't sound like he's completely over it, implying that Michalek should have kept better control over his stick, it also doesn't sound like this will be a big deal in the series going forward. Here's hoping for a quick recovery for St. Louis.


2011 NHL Playoffs: Scores For Thursday And Schedule For Friday

Here are the scores from Thursday night's NHL Playoff games:

The Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins, 2-0. Carey Price led the way for Montreal with 31 saves, while Brian Gionta scored both goals.

The No. 7-seeded Buffalo Sabres upset the No. 2 Philadelphia Flyers, 1-0. Ryan Miller had 35 saves for the Sabres, while Patrick Kaleta scored the only goal of the game early in the third period.

Finally, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2. Dany Heatley and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks, and Joe Pavelski put away the game-winner in overtime. Dustin Brown scored on the power play for the Kings, and Justin Williams scored as well.

There will be four games on Friday. The Penguins will take on the Lightning at 7:00, while the Rangers will play the Capitals at 7:30. The Blackhawks play the Canucks at 10:00, and the Predators take on the Ducks at 10:30. All four games are the second games of their respective series.


NHL Playoff Scores: Capitals, Red Wings, Canucks, Predators Victorious

Besides the Penguins3-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning, here are the other NHL playoff scores from Wednesday night.

The Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers 2-1 in overtime, with Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin scoring for the Caps. Matt Gilroy scored the lone goal for the Rangers.

The Vancouver Canucks won against the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-0, with Christopher Higgins and Jannik Hansen scoring the two goals in the first period. Roberto Luongo had 32 saves for the Canucks.

The Detroit Red Wings beat the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-2. Pavel Datsuyuk, Johan Franzen and Brian Rafalski all scored in the second period for Detroit, while Jiri Hudler tacked on a goal in the third period.

Finally, the Nashville Predators beat the Anaheim Ducks, 4-1. Mike Fisher scored two goals for Nashville, while Shea Weber and Steve Sullivan also scored. Pekka Rinne had 27 saves.

The other three NHL playoff series will begin Thursday night.


2011 NHL Playoffs: Penguins Take Game One, Defeat Lightning 3-0 Behind Marc-Andre Fleury's 32-Save Shutout

If the Pittsburgh Penguins are to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in their best-of-seven series, tonight's victory will need to serve as the blueprint for future successes.

The Penguins defeated the Lightning 3-0 on Wednesday in Pittsburgh behind Marc-Andre Fleury's 32-save shutout and a two-goal outburst in third period. The victory gives the Penguins a 1-0 series lead and could leave the Lightning searching for answers heading into the now-vital second game of the series for the road team.

The teams remained deadlock through 46:05 of play until a bitter Alexei Kovalev sent Penguins fans into rapture. Trailing behind the play and fuming after falling victim to a trip by Pavel Kubina, Kovalev found himself wide-open at the doorstep of the net when the Penguins regained possession near the top of the offensive zone. Once James Neal's pass reached Kovalev, Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson was helpless to stop the Russian's one-timer, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

Aaron Asham doubled the lead 18 seconds later, getting Roloson to commit to his wrap-around move before depositing the puck into an empty net, making the score 2-0. A late empty netter from Chris Kunitz would settle the proceedings.

The real hero on the night for the Penguins, though, was Marc-Andre Fleury, withstanding an early barrage of chances and shots from the Lightning and turning the contest into the grind that the Penguins had hoped for. At one point in the first period, the Lightning had outshot the Penguins 7-1. By the end of the game, that number had skewed in the Penguins' favor by a 39-32 margin.

Alongside Fleury, the Penguins can credit effective performances on defense, namely from the pairing of Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang. Orpik set the physical tone early in the game with a bone-crunching hit on Steven Stamkos and the pair would go on to largely shut Stamkos' line out of the game.

Roloson took the loss for the Lightning, making 37 saves on 39 shots in a strong performance. 

Faceoff for Game Two is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Friday at the Consol Energy Center.


Lightning Vs. Penguins: Alex Kovalev, Arron Asham Score Seconds Apart To Give Pens 2-0 Lead

The Penguins broke the scoreless tie in their first NHL playoff matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning with about 14 minutes to go in the third period and then, as I was typing this sentence scored again to make it 2-0. The two goals were scored 18 seconds apart.

The first goal was scored by Alex Kovalev, as Paul Martin dumped the puck off to James Neal near the blueline and Neal quickly fired the puck to Kovalev near the crease.

In the second goal, Arron Asham took the puck down the ice by himself and went around the goal, poking it in from around the corner as Craig Adams screened in front.

These two goals happened so quickly that it’s hard to have much more to say until I see some replays. But this matchup had been tooth and nail for over 40 minutes – the Pens took the upper hand in the second period, but didn’t have a score to show for it. Now they’ve got two, and it looks like it will be very difficult for the Lightning to come back, considering the way Marc-Andre Fleury is playing.


Lightning Vs. Penguins: Still No Score In Goaltending Exhibition By Marc-Andre Fleury, Dwayne Roloson

Marc-Andre Fleury and Dwayne Roloson have put on a goaltending clinic as Game One of the NHL Playoff series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins remains scoreless after two periods.

The Lightning arguably played better than the Penguins in the first period, but in the second it was probably the opposite, as the Penguins consistently kept the puck in the Lightning’s zone and racked up 18 shots in the period. Dwayne Roloson, who already has 28 saves, kept the net clean for Tampa Bay, and on the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury has done the same, with seven saves in the period and 14 in the game. That includes a stop of a brilliant trick shot by Vincent Lecavalier, who squeezed the puck between his legs and attempted to get by Fleury near the pole, only to have Fleury dive back and get it.

There was also a play in which Zbynek Michalek appeared to lose control of his stick and smacked Martin St. Louis in the face. No penalty was called, and St. Louis went to the bench, where he could be seen ranting in anger with blood in his mouth. The second period remained very physical, and I would expect that to continue in the third period.


Lightning Vs. Penguins: After First Period, Pens' First NHL Playoff Game Still Scoreless

After the first period, the first game of the first-round NHL playoff matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins remains scoreless.

The Lightning lead the Penguins in shots, 14-10, but the Penguins have gotten great play from Marc-Andre Fleury, who has done a nice job moving forward to challenge shooters and cut down their angles. There was one play about halfway through the period in which Fleury lost track of the puck and thought it was behind him, and a Lightning player in front of the net raised his hands in celebration. But the puck was still in front of the net and the Pens managed to quell the threat, and that’s as close to scoring as either team got.

The Penguins have tried to play a very physical game, putting a number of tough hits on Lightning players, particularly at the beginning of the period. Still, at some point they’ve got to score, and they had three power-play opportunities in the first period that they didn’t convert. The Lightning will have about a minute of their own power play left at the beginning of the second period


2011 NHL Playoff Predictions: Penguins Vs. Lightning, Capitals Vs. Rangers, Flyers Vs. Sabres, Bruins Vs. Canadiens

While the NHL's Western Conference seems to have the majority of this season's heavyweights, the Eastern Conference seems primed with potential upsets and turbulence. Without further adieu, here are our first-round playoff predictions from our hockey bloggers Stephen Catanese and Jimmy Rixner:

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers

Season Series: Rangers 3-1

Stephen Catanese says:

Once again, Washington enters the playoffs the top seed in the Eastern Conference and, once again, the Capitals will have to deal with questions about their legitimacy as a Stanley Cup contender. Bruce Boudreau's ability to turn the Capitals' focus towards a defense-first mentality may be a positive sign, but there are still questions to be answered. Still, the thoroughly mediocre New York Rangers are not the team to ask them. Capitals in five.

Jimmy Rixner says:

The Rangers' loss of Ryan Callahan to a broken leg can't be understated - he was a utility player who could do it all. Rangers captain Chris Drury is back, but still unable to pick up much of the slack from Callahan's absence, which will be enough for Alex Ovechkin and the Caps to win. The big question, though, is whether the notoriously short-leashed Bruce Boudreau stick with starting playoff goalie Michal Neuvirth if Washington gets off to a slow start? Unless the Capitals trip themselves up with personnel moves, they should move on. Capitals in six.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres

Season Series: Tied 2-2

Stephen Catanese says:

The loaded Flyers seem to be the firm favorite in this series, but a weak end to the season coupled with Buffalo's strong performance down the stretch raise serious questions about the Flyers' viability. Buffalo is the hot team coming into the series and boasts far superior goaltending, while Chris Pronger, Philly's top blueliner, may be forced to remain on the sidelines. On paper, this should be Philadelphia's for the taking. In reality, it might be a wee-bit different. Buffalo in six.

Jimmy Rixner says:

With Chris Pronger returning from injury, the Philadelphia Flyers easily best the Buffalo Sabres on paper. Playoff games, of course, are not played on paper, but unless Ryan Miller reverts to Olympic form, this series could be over quickly, as the smallish Buffalo forwards just don't seem to have the punch to breakthrough Philly's defense enough to keep pace. Flyers in five.

(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens

Season Series: Montreal 4-2

Stephen Catanese says:

My heart says that Montreal wins this series, but my head is firmly placed in a different position. What was arguably the most intense series of the regular season now has to be the premier series in the Eastern Conference. Montreal won the season series, and Boston has begun to fade down the stretch, but I can't look past the Bruins' balance and size in this one. Bruins in six.

Jimmy Rixner says:

Rivals Montreal and Boston will lock horns in what should be the most intense series in the East. Boston has the advantage of depth, and Montreal has been beset by injuries, but I like Montreal's emotion and motivation. If Carey Price can be consistent, the Canadiens ought to make this more competitive than most think, and Montreal knows a thing or two about upsets. Canadiens in seven.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

Season Series: Tied 2-2

Stephen Catanese says:

I already outlined my thoughts on this series, in depth, earlier this week. But, to summarize them, the Penguins look to be out-gunned in this one. If the referees swallow their whistles and the series turns into a grindfest, it'll begin to favor the Penguins. But if the Penguins continue to take penalties and the offense remains stagnant, it'll be an uphill climb. Lightning in six.

Jimmy Rixner says:

I think the Pens/Lightning series will boil down to physicality and mistakes, as most playoff series do. Show me who punishes a team more and I'll show you who's more likely to make mental and physical errors.

Eight Penguins have more hits than the leader on Tampa. Pittsburgh will be the more physical team. The Penguins' forwards will batter the Tampa defense, eventually resulting in turnovers and poor decisions for the Lightning. In a long series, this is page one in Dan Bylsma's playbook.

And about Tampa's defense - young stud Victor Hedman is already injured and missed games recently (though he will play). Hedman is also making his NHL playoff debut, as is Mike LundinBrett Clark only has 10 games of NHL playoff experience. Small weaknesses like that glare throughout Tampa Bay's roster.

Throw Sidney Crosby's status aside, because it seems unlikely he's back in the lineup in the immediate future. I still like the Penguins. They have more physical forwards like Chris Kunitz, James Neal who will hit Tampa's defense often. They have guys like Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis who are better in the corners than Tampa will be.

If they can stay out of the penalty box, the Penguins will have their strengths (goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and the defense) matched up on Tampa's strength (skilled forwards like Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos).  Then Pittsburgh's forwards will grind down Tampa's defense and get pucks to 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson. Sooner or later they'll break through. Pens in six.

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