TAMPA — It's one of hockey's least glamorous jobs. Yet, it very well might win the Lightning this first-round series against the Penguins.
The Lightning's penalty killers continued to shut down the Penguins' power play Monday, killing off all five of Pittsburgh's five-on-four advantages in Tampa Bay's 4-2 victory. And the totals for the series are stunning: the Penguins have been on the power play 30 times and have one goal. Considering the series is now headed to a winner-take-all Game 7, one can suggest that if the Lightning penalty-killers hadn't been this proficient, the Lightning would be packing up for the offseason instead of packing for Pittsburgh.
"Our penalty-killers have been on the same page," the Lightning's Dominic Moore said, "and we've been really reacting well together."
They reacted best in the second period Monday night, killing off four power plays, including three in a 12-minute span just after the Lightning had taken a 2-1 lead. The penalty-killers then put the clamps down with the Lightning nursing a 3-2 lead in the third.
Led by Sean Bergenheim, Adam Hall, Nate Thompson, Moore and defensemen Mattias Ohlund, Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman, the Lightning has turned the Penguins' power play into a nonfactor. Well, those players and goalie Dwayne Roloson.
"Your best penalty-killer has got to be your goalie," Thompson said.
"Roli has been awesome," Brewer said.
But Roloson hasn't need to be spectacular because the penalty killers have been that good.
"I think the biggest thing is when they come into the zone, we make them dump it in," Thompson said. "We're taking away their time and space and not letting them set up. So, it's that and blocking shots."
Thompson led all Lightning forwards Monday night with four blocked shots, all on wicked slap shots from only a few feet away.
"There is no mentality to it," Thompson said with a laugh. "It's just what you have to do. This is playoffs. You have to be willing to sacrifice your body and block the shot with whatever you can. Every guy is willing to do that."
All of this should come as no surprise. The Lightning was ranked among the NHL's top five in killing penalties for most of the season and finished eighth overall. In these playoffs, the Lightning is second, only because Montreal's penalty-killers are 15-for-15.
"Now," Moore said, "we've got to continue to do it."