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Tampa Bay Lightning's special teams prove pivotal

With Vinny Lecavalier in front, Marty St. Louis’ shot goes off Paul Martin and past Marc-Andre Fleury for a power-play goal.

DIRK SHADD | Times

With Vinny Lecavalier in front, Marty St. Louis’ shot goes off Paul Martin and past Marc-Andre Fleury for a power-play goal.

PITTSBURGH — Penguins center Michael Rupp said one thing you can't do against the Lightning is let it get on the power play, "because they thrive on that."

But that's exactly what happened Friday in Tampa Bay's 5-1 win in Game 2 as the Lightning's special team units stole the show.

Unlike Game 1, when Tampa Bay had just one power play, the Penguins admittedly got caught up in their emotions in taking bad penalties. And the Lightning made them pay, going 2-for-6 with the man-advantage.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's penalty kill unit was 7-for-7 (and added a shorthanded, empty-net goal), having shut down the Penguins' power play in all 12 chances this series.

"Special teams were the difference, obviously," Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "Our penalty kill didn't do a good job. Our power play didn't do a good enough job. Special teams makes the difference in the playoffs, and (Friday), it showed."

The Penguins had said a big key in their Game 1 victory was staying disciplined and keeping Tampa Bay's power play, which led the Eastern Conference at 20.5 percent in the regular season, off the board. But Pittsburgh took three penalties in the first 11:06.

"We got caught up in our emotions, and it got the best of us," Rupp said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance to get to our game. You've got to swallow your pride and not look to retaliate out there."

Said Michalek: "Unnecessary penalties at bad times, that killed us."

Lightning coach Guy Boucher said the power play "needs to be one of our strengths." He said the key to Friday's success was keeping a "five-on-five mentality" with the man-advantage.

"We were hungry on the (power play)," said Marty St. Louis, who had the momentum-swinging power-play goal with 14 seconds left in the second period. "And we got it done."

The Lightning's penalty kill has been getting it done. It has been successful on 57 of its past 61 opportunities on the road (93.4 percent) dating to Jan. 21. Goalie Dwayne Roloson has been a big reason why and was impressive Friday with 35 saves.

"I think it's been clicking toward the end of the season, and we really had momentum going into the playoffs with our PK," center Nate Thompson said. "We have a lot of confidence in it. Obviously, you're best penalty-killer has to be your goaltender, and Roloson has done that for us ever since he's been here."

The Penguins' power-play unit ranked 25th (15.8 percent) in the regular season and is without stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And Tampa Bay made sure its struggles continued.

Said Vinny Lecavalier: "Our PK was phenomenal."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]times.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning's special teams prove pivotal 04/15/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 12:28am]
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