PITTSBURGH — Lightning goalie Anders Lindback said he never wants to get pulled from a game.
But after Lindback gave up three first-period goals in Sunday night's 5-3 loss to the Penguins, including kicking one in himself, he saw why he was no longer in net to start the second.
"I didn't think I totally did my job, so I understand, and I support it," Lindback said. "Whatever is best for the team at that moment, and I thought it made some change. We were close."
Tampa Bay, the league's king of the third period, certainly was, pulling within one goal on two occasions. It nearly tied the score on a breakaway as well as a Victor Hedman shot in the waning minute.
But the Lightning's three-goal first-period deficit proved too big to overcome, especially considering it was on the second game of a back-to-back.
"We didn't panic. We stuck with it," wing Marty St. Louis said.
"But it's a tough position to put yourself in."
As far as the Lightning had come this past week, from finding its identity to moving back into first place in the Southeast Division, coach Guy Boucher believed Sunday's game would be "our biggest test."
And Tampa Bay held the Penguins — playing without reigning league MVP Evgeni Malkin — to just 22 shots. But the Lightning committed two turnovers that led to first-period goals, and Lindback botched another.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby was credited with the first two, his first a wrist shot over Lindback's right shoulder 76 seconds into the game. However, Lindback said his "big mistake" came on the second. He appeared to have corralled a shot from the point but lost track of the puck. It trickled behind him in the crease until he knocked it in with his right skate.
"It kind of snuck through me somehow," said Lindback, pulled for the first time while with the Lightning and second overall.
Boucher, hoping to "inject something different" into his team, inserted Mathieu Garon to start the second. And center Steven Stamkos said Garon, who was sharp in Saturday's win over Carolina, "really gave us a chance," stopping 10 of 11 shots.
The Lightning (9-8-1) scored twice in a span of 1:37 early in the second, including a one-timer by Stamkos on a five-on-three power play, to cut the Penguins lead to one. But the Penguins answered with a five-on- three tally of their own with 7:40 left in the second, Beau Bennett scoring his first NHL goal.
The Lightning lead the league with 32 third-period goals and had several chances to tie this one, including a breakaway by rookie Richard Panik. But Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury came up big with 27 saves.
Said Boucher: "Our guys gave it everything they had."
First Period—1, Pittsburgh, Crosby 8 (Kunitz), 1:16. 2, Pittsburgh, Crosby 9 (Neal, Martin), 7:15. 3, Pittsburgh, Martin 3 (Cooke), 19:26. Penalties—Hall, TB, major (fighting), 19:31; Vitale, Pit, major (fighting), 19:31.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Brewer 4 (Stamkos, Killorn), 1:37. 5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 13 (Purcell, St. Louis), 3:14 (pp). 6, Pittsburgh, Bennett 1 (Crosby, Letang), 12:20 (pp). Penalties—Despres, Pit (hooking), 2:29; Adams, Pit (boarding), 2:54; Brewer, TB (interference), 11:03; Salo, TB (interference), 11:45.
Third Period—7, Tampa Bay, Conacher 7 (Hedman, Stamkos), 3:15. 8, Pittsburgh, Cooke 3 (Sutter, Letang), 19:08 (en). Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 10-10-10—30. Pittsburgh 10-7-5—22. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 2; Pittsburgh 1 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Lindback (10 shots-7 saves), Garon 2-4-0 (0:00 second, 11-10). Pittsburgh, Fleury 10-3-0 (30-27).