BRANDON — Veteran Lightning wing Ryan Malone acknowledged that with the heightened physicality, emotions and intensity in playoff hockey, keeping your composure is easier said than done.
"Sooner or later, you're going to get sick of someone in your face all night," Malone said. "I think it's just human nature. You try to get in their personal space as much as you can and make them feel frustrated, and maybe they'll do something stupid — if they punch you in the face or give you a cross-check."
Several Penguins said they fell victim to that in their 5-1 loss on Friday in Game 2. The resulting penalties allowed the Lightning's power play — the top unit in the Eastern Conference during the regular season — to get six chances, scoring twice.
And heading into tonight's Game 3, the battle of restraint vs. retaliation could play a big role.
"You've got to be the person getting under the other guy's skin or else you're not going to be successful," Lightning center Dana Tyrell said. "That's how you get the opportunities and the chances.
"I think the first game, they got under our skin a bit. And the second game, we took it back to them a bit. We're going to take it to them (tonight), and I think whoever is going to get under the opponent's skin is going to win."
Malone said the team realized after a 3-0 Game 1 loss in Pittsburgh that the officials were calling it tighter than at the end of the regular season. So the Lightning tried to do the little things to get an edge.
"A huge thing is just being first on the pucks," Tyrell said.
"If you're beating Pittsburgh to the puck all night, they're going to get upset, and they might take penalties. And that's how we're going to get our opportunities — finishing checks, just working hard and keeping our stick on the ice."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he was surprised how soon his team lost its composure Friday considering it was so disciplined in Game 1 (allowing just one power play). But even a team with several players from the 2009 Stanley Cup champion was "a little bit distracted by people and other events going on on the ice," Bylsma said.
Lightning center Dominic Moore caused a bit of frustration with his gritty play.
"We played against him in Montreal (in the playoffs) last year, and we know what he's all about," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said in Pittsburgh. "You just have to take that and, hopefully, shake his hand at the end of the series."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]