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Tampa Bay Lightning enjoys return to Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — For some in the Lightning organization, Tuesday night at Mellon Arena was a bit of a homecoming.

Coach Rick Tocchet, and wings Ryan Malone, Mark Recchi and Adam Hall are former Penguins, and the media treated them like royalty before the game.

Fans probably felt differently after Tampa Bay's 2-0 win, the team's third in 17 games since Nov. 14, when Tocchet replaced the fired Barry Melrose.

Matt Pettinger and Paul Szczechura scored. Szczechura and Mark Recchi had two-point games, and goalie Mike Smith earned his second shutout of the season and eighth of his career.

"I've been trying to play well and contribute defensively," Szczechura said. "It's a great feeling to help offensively."

Also credit good positional play by the Lightning (8-16-9), which allowed a season-low 15 shots — three in the third period — and outshot the Penguins by 14.

"Definitely we made some mistakes, but guys bailed each other out tonight," Smith said. "We haven't done much of that all year. But I can't say enough about how the guys played."

Both goals — Pettinger in the first period, Szczechura in the third — came after failed Pittsburgh breakaways.

Smith's stop of Evgeni Malkin, made with his left arm with 9:03 left in the third, was followed 17 seconds later by Szczechura's power-play goal. Szczechura's second goal of the season provided the two-goal cushion.

"That was incredible," Tocchet said of Smith's save on Malkin. "That's the stuff we haven't gotten the past six weeks. That's the stuff we're looking for; after a big save, Szczechura goes down to score a goal."

The Lightning played a good first period and outshot the Penguins 13-8.

Vinny Lecavalier tested goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 4:31 into the game as he took a pass in full stride on the right wing and launched a backhander that Fleury gloved.

Smith was sharp during a Pittsburgh power play and stopped two shots after defenseman Andrej Meszaros failed to clear the puck with a backhand try, including Malkin's blistering shot from the high slot the goalie caught against his right shoulder.

Smith preserved the tie with 4:40 remaining in the period, when he slid right to left to stop Miroslav Satan's shot from the faceoff circle.

Tampa Bay continued its good positional play in the second, holding the Penguins to four shots while building a 22-12 advantage.

It took a 1-0 lead 5:15 into the period on Pettinger's tap-in from in front of the net. But the play was made by Szczechura, who swung behind the Penguins net while fighting off defenseman Alex Goligoski and fed Pettinger, who scored his second goal of the season.

Smith was big again with 4:02 left, when he stretched to his right for a blocker save on a crisp shot by Jordan Staal. Fleury answered with 3:32 left, when he stopped Lecavalier's snap shot from the slot on a three-on-two and denied Paul Ranger, who was right on the rebound, with a terrific left-leg save.

"It's like a sigh of relief," Smith said of his first win in 12 starts. "You almost forget how to win."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8622. View his blog at lightning.sptimes.com.

Lightning 0 1 1 2
Penguins 0 0 0 0

First PeriodNone. PenaltiesMalone, TB (slashing), 1:11; Malkin, Pit (roughing), 1:11; Dupuis, Pit (holding stick), 3:41; Scuderi, Pit (tripping), 11:17; Eminger, TB (tripping), 14:03; Lecavalier, TB (roughing), 16:23; Satan, Pit (interference), 18:34.

Second Period1, Tampa Bay, Pettinger 2 (Szczechura, Recchi), 5:15. PenaltiesMalone, TB (holding stick), 7:27; Recchi, TB (hooking), 15:27; Boucher, Pit (holding stick), 15:27.

Third Period2, Tampa Bay, Szczechura 2 (Jokinen, Recchi), 11:14 (pp). PenaltiesTalbot, Pit, double minor (high-sticking), 8:20. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 13-9-7—29. Pittsburgh 8-4-3—15. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 1 of 5; Pittsburgh 0 of 3. GoaliesTampa Bay, Smith 6-12-8 (15 shots-15 saves). Pittsburgh, Fleury 10-5-2 (29-27). A17,064 (16,940). T2:19. RefereesFrancois St. Laurent, Dave Jackson. LinesmenAndy McElman, Derek Amell.

Lightning 2

Penguins 0

Tampa Bay Lightning enjoys return to Pittsburgh 12/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 5:25pm]

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