ECF Game 2 Preview: vs Tampa Bay Lightning - May 16, 2016



Pittsburgh Penguins (8-4) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (9-2)
May 16, 2016 @ 8:00 PM - Consol Energy Center
TV: NBC Sports Network
Tampa Bay Leads 1-0


The Penguins had a golden opportunity to jump ahead of the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals when Ben Bishop went down with a freak injury midway through the 1st period, but 21-year-old backup Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced to give Tampa Bay the 3-1 win. It's a loss that cedes home ice advantage to the Lightning while also adding additional importance on winning Game 2 to avoid dropping into an 0-2 hole heading on the road.

The Lightning didn't generate a ton of shots on goal, finishing the game with only 20, but they were opportunistic in pouncing on Pittsburgh's mistakes and making the Pens pay for their sloppy pay. Tampa got on the board late in the first period after Maatta badly misplayed a long Victor Hedman stretch pass to Alex Killorn, while a Brian Dumoulin turnover paired with an ill-timed pinch by Kris Letang gave the Lightning a 3-on-1 break that allowed them to effectively seal the game with a 3-0 lead.

The team didn't play their best, but it doesn't appear that Mike Sullivan is going to hope for better in the next game. One of the anticipated moves leading up to Game 2 is Justin Schultz being inserted back into the lineup in place of Olli Maatta. It's a move many thought would eventually be made to counter the team speed of the Lightning, and Maatta's skating is still clearly hampered by whatever injury he's trying to make a return from.

Sullivan didn't stop at the defense though, as the forward lines also saw a shakeup in practice. The HBK line remained in tact, but Sidney Crosby took the ice centering Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust,  while Evgeni Malkin was paired with Patric Hornqvist and Beau Bennett, the later who will likely be a scratch as Chris Kunitz was given a maintenance day. As the top 6 continues to struggle generating offensive production, it remains to be seen how fluid Sullivan will be in further changing up his lines on the fly once the puck drops tonight.

But arguably the biggest story coming out of Game 1 was not only the number of seemingly severe injuries that occurred, but also how little those plays seem destined to affect the series. Both Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin took crushing hits on boarding penalties in the first game, but Letang returned to action shortly after and Dumoulin is expected to play tonight. Tyler Johnson took a bad looking knee-on-knee collision along the boards from Kunitz, but after being unable to place any weight on his right leg he was able to return to action. The scariest injury was when Ben Bishop crumbled to the ice untouched in visible pain, but the x-rays and MRI came back negative and he hasn't been ruled out of tonight's game.

Projected Lines




Notes

- The media continues to try drumming up a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh, but Mike Sullivan again nipped that in the bud when meeting with reporters: Matt Murray will start Game 2.

- Steven Stamkos has seen no change in his medication to take him off blood thinners, and he will again be a scratch for Tampa Bay.
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