Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cheap Shots And Hat Tricks

The Pittsburgh Penguins got healthy in a figurative sense during their road trip in Florida. They also got literally healthy in certain ways as well. Sidney Crosby began skating again and Kris Letang hopes to return to the blue line next week. Those guys have not returned yet and no one else in the league is going to feel sorry for the Pens due to the fact that they aren't there. One of those teams are the Tampa Bay Lightning who knocked the Pens out of the playoffs last season but have taken a huge step back and find themselves near the bottom of the standings this year. A battered and bruised Penguins team proved that on Sunday afternoon by completing the Florida sweep.

The Penguins got on the board quickly on a power play when Evgeni Malkin drew a slash against Steven Stamkos in the first minute of the game. James Neal buried his first of two power play goals in the game to put the Pens on the board. Richard Park also put a puck past the former Penguins netminder, Mathieu Garon, to send the Pens into the first intermission with a two goal lead that stuck through the second period.

The third period is where things began to go wild for both teams. After Neal scored to give the Penguins a three goal advantage, the Lightning made things interesting. Matt Gilroy, Ryan Malone, and Teddy Purcell each scored goals in a span of just under five minutes to tie the game.

That's when Malkin took matters into his own hands. He came into this game ranked ninth in the league in scoring. After an incredible backhander, a breakaway, and an empty netter for the natural hat trick, Malkin found himself second in the league in scoring. Dominic Moore seemed to be the one that lit the fire under Malkin. After the Purcell goal, Moore was getting chippy with Malkin before the faceoff and shortly after was when Malkin netted his first. Vincent Lecavalier made matters worse when he sucker punched Malkin and got tossed from the contest.

This team has a long way to go towards getting healthy and being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference but beating teams that you are supposed to beat along the way will help. Tampa Bay was one of those teams and Carolina is another one who the Penguins will see on Tuesday night.

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