Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Merry Christmas for Bolts, Blank Pittsburgh 2-0

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning have given what is tantamount to a lump of coal in Lightning fans stockings all season, but on Christmas Eve, Tampa Bay's coal broke into a gem of a game against one of the NHL's best offensive powers, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tampa Bay limited the Penguins to just 15 shots and no goals while getting some unexpected offensive production from one of their role players to defeat Pittsburgh 2-0.

It was the first victory for Mike Smith since November 21st. "It's like a sigh of relief," Smith told the Associated Press, "You almost forget how to win."

After a scoreless first, Tampa Bay's Matt Pettinger lit the lamp at the 5:15 mark of the 2nd period on a great feed from behind the net by Paul Szczechura to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 advantage. Tampa Bay's defense limited the opportunities of the Penguins, especially superstars Malkin and Crosby, holding the Penguins to only 4 shots in the second period.

At the 11:14 mark of the third period, Szczechura would put the Lightning up 2-0 with a redirect of Jussi Jokinen shot toward the goal. Tampa Bay's much maligned defense would once again play strong, limiting the powerful Penguins to only 3 shots in the third and held on for a surprisingly easy 2-0 victory.

While definitely not playing their best hockey, the Penguins described the loss as embarrassing and coach Michel Therrien blamed the schedule but also his team's effort.

"The schedule is pretty tough. We just played four games in six days. Those are excuses," he told the AP, "We don't have the right attitude. We like to complain about each other on the bench and on the ice. They better wake up pretty quick. ... I'm really disappointed with their work ethic and the concentration. Until they change their attitude, we are going to have the same results."

Tampa Bay on the other hand was happy to give this Christmas gift to their fans, "You can't say enough about the way the guys played," Goalie Mike Smith said, "The defense was great. As a core, they played outstanding. The forwards were coming back and helping the defense out. In order for us to win, we have to have that full commitment from everybody."

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