Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Zenon Konopka turns 29, helps Tampa Bay Lightning beat Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1

TAMPA — Zenon Konopka said Saturday was just another day. Yes, it was his birthday. But really, the Lightning center insisted, no big deal.

It was tough to take Konopka seriously, though, with his hair covered in celebratory birthday shaving cream and his voice breathless describing how it felt to score the winner in Tampa Bay's 3-1 win over the Stanley Cup champion Penguins before an announced sellout of 20,109 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"It's awesome," he said of scoring the day he turned 29.

"To have a win like this and to beat a team like this is a big steppingstone for our team."

It certainly reinforced a pretty good run as Tampa Bay (16-15-10) finished a 3-1-1 homestand and has gone 5-1-1 in its past seven games.

The team used a formula it has found elusive. It came out hard (Marty St. Louis scored 1:03 into the game), kept the pressure on (it had 20 second-period shots and outshot Pittsburgh 37-26) and got timely goals.

Konopka's second of the season, with 5:34 left in the second period, broke a 1-1 tie. And Steve Downie's, 7:11 into the third, came soon after Vinny Lecavalier's missed penalty shot.

"For Downs to get that goal was huge," coach Rick Tocchet said.

"It protects you from an individual effort or some kind of fluky goal."

As did a solid penalty kill that was 4-for-4 and is on a 15-for-15 run. A swarming defense, led by Mattias Ohlund, who had two assists and was plus-3, held Evgeni Malkin to one shot. And goaltender Mike Smith made 25 saves to win for the fourth time in six games and give Pittsburgh a fourth straight loss.

"We knew that was a hungry team," St. Louis said. "They're a good team. I felt like we weren't going to let them be the good team that they are."

Said Smith: "We should feel very proud of ourselves."

And Konopka should feel validated after criticizing the team after a 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Dec. 23. Since then, the Lightning is 3-0-1.

"I think it was the truth, and the truth needed to come out," Konopka said. "We all had to look in the mirror, including myself. What could we bring more of? Don't be content. … We need to keep on each other and keep consequences to actions."

Tocchet said Konopka showed "huge leadership" by speaking up: "He's not afraid to say his piece. When he sees some guys who are getting a lot of ice time not pulling their weight, he's going to tell them, and I have no problem with that."

"He steps up," Smith said. "Maybe guys don't want to hear what he wants to say, but he says it anyway. Sometimes, it's hard for people to hear the truth, but he speaks from the heart."

Punctuated with a huge goal on just another day.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Lightning 1 1 1 3
Penguins 1 0 0 1

First Period1, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 9 (Ohlund, Stamkos), 1:03. 2, Pittsburgh, Guerin 13 (Staal, McKee), 17:15. PenaltiesSkoula, Pit (broken stick), 6:57; Lecavalier, TB (holding), 17:57.

Second Period3, Tampa Bay, Konopka 2 (Downie, Stamkos), 14:26. PenaltiesMalone, TB (holding stick), 8:23; Smaby, TB (cross-checking), 10:24; Letang, Pit (cross-checking), 17:54.

Third Period4, Tampa Bay, Downie 8 (Ohlund, Lecavalier), 7:11. PenaltiesCooke, Pit (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:26; Konopka, TB (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:26; Staal, Pit (boarding), 7:49; Foster, TB (holding), 8:05; Crosby, Pit (cross-checking), 17:54. Missed Penalty ShotLecavalier, TB, 4:44 third. Shots on GoalPittsburgh 9-10-7—26. Tampa Bay 6-20-11—37. Power-play opportunitiesPittsburgh 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 4. GoaliesPittsburgh, Fleury 22-12-1 (37 shots-34 saves). Tampa Bay, M.Smith 9-10-6 (26-25). A20,109 (19,758).T2:21. Referees—Chris Lee, Dan O'Halloran. LinesmenBrad Kovachik, Brian Mach.

Lightning 3

Penguins 1

Zenon Konopka turns 29, helps Tampa Bay Lightning beat Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 01/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 10:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. LSU advances to College World Series finals, awaits Florida or TCU

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — Caleb Gilbert held No. 1 national seed Oregon State to two hits in 71/3 innings, Michael Papierski homered from both sides of the plate and LSU beat the Beavers 6-1 on Saturday to reach the College World Series finals.

    Beau Jordan celebrates after hitting a home run during a victory over Oregon State, LSU’s second straight win over the No. 1 national seed.
  2. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Rays journal: Jumbo Diaz falters after getting within a strike of ending rally

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game got away starting with a leadoff walk in the seventh inning by Rays LHP Jose Alvarado, who was brought in exclusively to face Baltimore's lefty-swinging Seth Smith.

    Rays reliever Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Orioles score four during the seventh inning to give them a 7-3 lead. Diaz was one strike away from working out of the jam before he allowed a two-run double and a two-run homer on back-to-back pitches.
  4. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It was refreshing to see RHP Jacob Faria take the blame after the loss even though he gave the Rays a chance to win. Too often young pitchers are encouraged by what they did and not necessarily the outcome, but Faria, making just his fourth big-league start, came to the Trop to win, didn't, and pointed the finger …