Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning learned the costly effects of taking seven penalties in a single game against the No. 1 power play in the NHL as the Pittsburgh Penguins brought Tampa Bay’s five-game win streak to an end with a 4-3 overtime victory that pushed the Penguins even further atop the Metropolitan Division.
Pittsburgh’s superstars more than proved their worth Saturday afternoon: Sidney Crosby netted his 34th goal of the season with an absolutely wicked rifle shot launched so fast even the Consol Energy Center faithful had a delayed reaction, Evgeni Malkin scored his 22nd and 23rd goals and James Neal took home the game winner in overtime with his 23rd goal of the year.
But the Penguins’ power play proved to be all the team needed to launch past the offensively minded Lightning. By the time the four-man unit of Crosby, Neal, Malkin and Chris Kunitz set up just a minute into overtime from a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty to Tampa Bay, the only question left to ask was which of the four would score. Less than 20 seconds later the game was over as Neal found the back of the net.
During a time in the season where other power house teams such as the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks are gaining losses because of sloppy special teams play, Pittsburgh’s game has shot off in the opposite direction, finding success because of how they capitalize with the man advantage.
While the look of the Penguins’ power play begins as most teams’ — the standard diamond or umbrella formations — the Penguins’ split-second adaptability to defensive pressure is what makes their special teams unit the most effective in the league. It goes without any surprise that three of Pittsburgh’s four goals Saturday afternoon were scored on the power play.
If the Penguins are able to maintain their special teams success, it might end up being one of the most decisive factors in their postseason run. As Tampa Bay learned today, when you give Crosby and the gang an inch — they will take a mile, a few goals, and a big win home.