Written by The Burgh Blog writer: Austin Tocco
Well, this is it, your Pittsburgh Penguins are officially one loss away from elimination. After last night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Lightning, media went to full blast. So many different opinions and thoughts as to what the Penguins should do to fix the issues they had in game 5. Many things need to change in order for the Penguins to beat the Lightning on their home ice, and then win game 7 in Pittsburgh. The chances of the Penguins converting on this lost opportunity is looking extremely bleak at this point in time. Confidence can only get you so far, you have to execute to back up what you say.
To start, the game had such a great feel to it, seeing people cheering their heads off, seeing Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, and Shawn Michaels in the stands. Not to mention seeing Marc-Andre Fleury skate onto the ice for the first time since March gave me the chills. Everything seemed to be perfect, a home game 5 is the perfect opportunity for the Penguins to get a grip on the series and have a chance to clinch on the road in game 6. The Penguins struck first late in the first period on a rebound goal by Brian Dumoulin, then again just a minute and a half into the second period by Patric Hornqvist. The Penguins were up by two in game 5 and had the crowd on their side. They then had a perfect chance to in my opinion, seal the deal and put the Lightning away on the power-play, but, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy robbed Phil Kessel on the short side. The rest was history, the Lightning gained a tremendous amount energy from that critical save by their goalie that they came right back and scored two quick goals just a minute and some change apart. Needless to say that quieted the crowd. With a minute left in the 2nd period, Penguins forward Chris Kunitz found a juicy rebound in front of goaltender Vasilevskiy and made it 3-2 Penguins going into the 2nd intermission. The Penguins had to hold off the Lightning in the 3rd period to win the game, but Tampa winger Nikita Kucherov buried one behind Fleury to tie the game with only 3 minutes left in regulation. That called for an extra frame in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It did not take long for the Lightning to convert, defenseman Jason Garrison wristed a shot towards Fleury that deflected off of Tampa forward Tyler Johnson and into the back of the net. The Penguins outshot the Lightning once again 34 to 25. This put a dagger in every Penguins fan. The Lightning now have home ice advantage for the next game and a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second year in a row, without their captain and starting goaltender (Stamkos and Bishop).
Not one player on the Penguins is to blame specifically, each and every one of them did not play to their full potential in this crucial game 5. Most of the players said in the post-game interviews that “they need to be better.” The stars of this team like Malkin, Crosby, Letang and Fleury need to perform. This has been the Penguins core for the past decade now, something has got to give.
Evgeni Malkin had one assist in the game, he must bury one behind the Lightning goaltender for all of the chances that he had on the power-play. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang had 0 points. The star players of this team need to light the lamp in game 6 and 7 if they want a chance to beat arguably the best team in the NHL. They are not lacking opportunities, many of their chances go by the waste side because they try to get too fancy and make an unnecessary pass, they need to shoot any chance they get and convert on some of these chances, and it will find its way home soon enough. Marc-Andre Fleury without a doubt showed that he had some Rust to kick off. There is no easy way of putting it lightly that he struggled in his first full game back in goal. He allowed 4 goals on only 25 shots. This year against the Lightning, Fleury went 0-3 with a .797 SV % during the regular season and was pulled once. Mike Sullivan has a tough decision to make again before game 6. Fleury or Murray will remain the biggest storyline before the next game.
Every game from here on out will be the biggest game of the players lives. The big 4 need to show up in game 6 for the Penguins to end up on top of game 6. The next game is Tuesday at 8:00 pm EST on NBCSN in Tampa Bay. It is do or die time for the Penguins, they have to win 2 games in a row to advance to the Finals.
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