The first game of a new playoff series is usually one where each team uses it to begin to figure out their opponent but in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the clubs went right to work and right after each other.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Lightning forward Ondrej Palat scored a goal and assisted on another while goaltenders Ben Bishop (9) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (25) combined to stop 34 shots to lead Tampa Bay to a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh’s Console Energy Center. The Penguins lead the best-of-seven series 1-0.
Game 2 of the series will take place Monday, May 16th, at Pittsburgh (8:00 pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Bishop made his nine saves before being injured with 7:35 to play in the first period. Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist was attempting to skate behind the Tampa Bay net when he became entangled with Bishop’s stick and the goal post. Bishop tried to move from the right side of the crease to the left side but twisted and fell onto his left leg appearing to injure the leg. He was removed from the ice on a stretcher.
Following the game, Lightning coach Jon Cooper gave an update on his puck stopper.
“He had x-rays done and everything came back negative, so we’re hoping for the best. He’s definitely hurt but there’s nothing structurally wrong. That was a big relief.”
Vasilevskiy replaced Bishop for the remainder of the contest.
“In the first two periods, I didn’t feel good,” Vasilevskiy said after the game. “So, I was cold and tough mentally, but when we scored three goals, I got some confidence and in the third period, I felt pretty good. I got some shots and just warmed up.”
As for the action, Alex Killorn scored the first goal of the series 18:46 into the first period when he was sent in alone by Victor Hedman, who skated out from behind his own net and sent the puck up ice to Killorn. Killorn took control of the disc just outside of the Pittsburgh blue line, skated towards Penguins’ goaltender Matt Murray and deked forehand before putting a backhand shot into the net to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
The Lightning would strike two more times in the second period.
Palat increased Tampa Bay’s lead with a power play goal at the 2:33 mark of the frame when he skated to the front of Murray’s net uncontested to sweep a rebound of a Jason Garrison slap shot from the left point. Valtteri Filppula passed the puck from the right point over to Garrison, whose shot was stopped by Vasilevskiy but found its way onto Palat’s backhand and the Lighting took a 2-0 lead.
Rookie Jonathan Drouin scored his second goal of the playoffs 18:25 into the second period putting the Lightning ahead by a 3-0 score. Tampa Bay broke out of their zone when Palat put a pass onto the stick of Filppula. Filppula and Drouin went down the ice on a two on one. Filppula held the puck until the Penguins defender committed himself by sprawling out to prevent the pass but Filppula being the crafty player that he is, sent a saucer pass over the defenseman’s stick which landed perfectly for Drouin to drive past Murray’s glove and into the back of the net.
Pittsburgh’s Hornqvist broke the shutout with 55 seconds to play in the second period while the Penguins were on the power play. After moving the puck around the Tampa Bay zone, Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang sent a cross-ice pass, right to left, to Phil Kessel, who reeled off a quick shot at Vasilevskiy. The Lightning goaltender made the save but the rebound went to Sidney Crosby at the half-wall to Vasilevskiy’s left. The Pittsburgh captain sent a backhand pass between his feet to Hornqvist, who was at the faceoff dot and he ripped a wrist shot over the blocker of the Tampa Bay netminder. Pittsburgh was on the board, trailing 3-1 but that would be the last goal for either team.
With the assist, Crosby posted his 83rd career playoff assist passing Jaromir Jagr into second place in Penguins history.
As for going right at each other, Lightning forward Ryan Callahan drew the game’s first penalty 2:50 into the game when he hit Letang from behind, sending the Penguins defenseman face-first into the boards. Letang left the game and went to his dressing room for medical attention and was able to return to the game. Callahan was assessed a five-minute major penalty for boarding.
At the 15:14 mark of the third period, Palat was penalized for boarding Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin. Palat sent Dumoulin head first into the glass with a hit from behind. Dumoulin crumpled to the ice, holding his head.
Either, or both, hits may be looked at by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, which will decide if supplemental discipline in the form of a fine and/or a suspension is in order for Callahan or Palat, or both.
Tampa Bay also saw one of their own injured. With 34 seconds remaining in the first period, Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz checked Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson into the end boards with the knees of each player colliding. Johnson needed assistance in getting to the Lightning dressing room but returned to the game in the second period.
The Penguins and Lightning are meeting for the second time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (also 2011 Conference Quarterfinals won by Tampa Bay 4-3).
The win is the fifth consecutive victory of the playoffs for Tampa Bay.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has two career playoff wins. Both have come in relief of the starting goaltender. Olaf Kolzig (Washington) was the last goaltender to achieve the feat.
Both goaltenders, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, are 21-years-old and were drafted in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Murray 83rd overall. Vasilevskiy 19th overall.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, this marks the fourth time in the past 35 years that goaltenders 21 years of age or younger have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Stat of the Night:
Per Elias Sports Bureau, teams that win Game 1 of Conference Finals own an all-time series record of 67-29 (.698).
Saturday’s Stanley Cup Schedule:
No games scheduled
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.