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Penalty-kill faceoff losses hurt Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 against Pittsburgh Penguins

PRACTICE TIME: After a team meeting of about an hour, coach Guy Boucher and the Lightning take to the ice Thursday.

DIRK SHADD | Times

PRACTICE TIME: After a team meeting of about an hour, coach Guy Boucher and the Lightning take to the ice Thursday.

PITTSBURGH — As if the Lightning in Game 1 did not put itself in enough of a hole by giving the Penguins six power plays, it made it worse by winning just three of 14 penalty-kill faceoffs.

If that seems like a throwaway statistic, think again.

"I can only speak for when I'm on the power play," C Vinny Lecavalier said. "But it's a downer to lose the draw and lose 30 seconds. So, when you're penalty killing like we were (Wednesday), it's huge to win those draws. Those 30 seconds of not being able to set up, it's important, for sure."

Tampa Bay, which won 50.4 percent of faceoffs in the regular season (16th in the league), won 47 percent overall against Pittsburgh in their series opener.

"We watch tape of their centermen," Penguins C Max Talbot said. "We know their tendencies. But at the same time, it's about battle level and trying to get in there and win pucks because you know how important it is for puck possession, especially on the power play. You win the puck, you can get zone time and good chance on the net."

What goes into winning faceoffs? More than you might believe. "The center has to bear down," said Lightning C Nate Thompson, who won two of 10 draws in Game 1, compared with 54.2 percent in the regular season. "But even if you don't win it clean and (the puck) sits there, you still need help from every guy on the ice. Faceoffs are often won by the team. … All of us, including myself, need to do a better job."

PLANTING A SEED: Coach Guy Boucher said his players deserved the seven penalties that resulted in six Penguins power plays. But he also repeated several times, perhaps to remind tonight's referees, that Pittsburgh, which had only one shorthanded situation in Game 1, is one of the league's most penalized teams. "Either they're really smart about it," Boucher said, "or we're not smart about it."

The Penguins led the league with 480 penalties and were second in times spent shorthanded (324), and had an average 16.9 penalty minutes per game. Three of their top four in penalty minutes were Game 1 scratches: Matt Cooke, Deryk Engelland and Eric Godard.

"We have to figure out a way to take less penalties," Boucher said. "But if they are the most penalized team in the league, it's going to show up in the next games."

BIG GAME: How big is Game 2 to the Lightning? Of 307 teams that fell behind 2-0 in a seven-game series entering this year, only 41 came back to win, including Tampa Bay in its 2003 East quarterfinal with the Capitals. That is 13.4 percent, not good odds.

UNSUNG STAR: Penguins D Brooks Orpik wasn't one of the three stars of Game 1, but he made a big impact. Orpik had the tone-setting hit on Lightning star C Steven Stamkos early in the first period and also had two assists, three blocked shots and 21:48 of ice time, and was plus-2.

C Michael Rupp said Orpik isn't flashy but brings intangibles such as blocking shots and making good breakout passes. As for the hit on Stamkos, Rupp said, "It's a message for their team but also for our team. The next few shifts after that we were throwing our bodies around quite a bit. When you have a player like that lead the way, that's what you look for at the start of a game. We want to set the tone, and he did."

LINEUP CHANGES: Boucher is thinking hard about using 11 forwards and seven defensemen in Game 2 instead of the 12 and six he did in Game 1. If so, that means defensemen Randy Jones, who hasn't played since March 7 because of a high ankle sprain, and Marc-Andre Bergeron, a Game 1 scratch, might play.

ODDS AND ENDS: There was no update on the condition of concussed Penguins C Sidney Crosby. … D Matt Smaby is still bothered by a lower-body injury.

Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

Penalty-kill faceoff losses hurt Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 against Pittsburgh Penguins 04/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 15, 2011 1:03am]

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