The Pittsburgh Penguins spotted Tampa Bay a 4-0 lead in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and lost 4-3 after a third period rally fell short.
Winning a championship at any level of any sport isn’t easy; the Penguins already knew that. Friday night they were given a crisp refresher just in case all of the fever surrounding their previous game dominance caused them to temporarily forget.
Tampa Bay capitalized on a series of Pens miscues that began before half of the Amilie Arena crowd had found its seats to stake a 4-0 lead through two periods of Game 4, and withstood a furious Penguins comeback in the third to even the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece heading back to Pittsburgh.
Ryan Callahan scored just 27 seconds into the contest and Andrej Sustr made it 2-0 Lightning at 14:38 of the first. Tampa’s offensive onslaught continued in the second, with Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson both lighting the lamp to seemingly put the game out of reach. Through the first 40 minutes the Penguins looked wildly out of sync, hardly comparable to the team that drastically outplayed Tampa just 48 hours earlier.
More from Pittsburgh Penguins
- Pittsburgh Penguins: A Look Back at 2019
- Penguins Will Continue to Persevere Despite Injuries
- Penguins: Alex Galchenyuk May Finally Start Meeting Expectations
- Penguins’ Three Keys to Help End Islanders’ Point Streak
- Penguins: Without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin Will Be an MVP Candidate
The Penguins found life in the third period. Marc-Andre Fleury replaced Matt Murray in goal and played solidly in his first game action since March 31st, stopping all seven Tampa shots he faced. Phil Kessel got the Pens on the board early in the period just over a minute into the period, and Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal in eight games to cut the deficit in half at 11:13 of the third. Just over two minutes later Chris Kunitz buried a Conor Sheary rebound to pull the Pens within one, giving scant hope of an unfathomable comeback. It would be too little too late for the Penguins however, as Tampa withstood a barrage of Pittsburgh scoring opportunities in the game’s final minutes to hold on for the victory.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, the game may not have been the only loss on the night. Defenseman Trevor Daley, one of the club’s most solid players throughout the postseason, left the game midway through the second period after awkwardly falling to the ice after taking a check into the boards from Tampa’s Ryan Callahan. Daley struggled to get to his feet for several moments until play was halted, unable to put any weight on his left leg. No update on Daley’s condition was immediately available.
Fleurry’s solid play, albeit against a Lightning team that was protecting a sizable lead during his initial time in net, leaves Pens’ coach Mike Sullivan with a decision to make regarding his team’s starting goaltender for Game 5 and beyond. Sullivan was non-committal in his post-game interview, saying simply he saw the situation as a good opportunity to get Fleurry some game action after having not played in over a month.
The two teams meet again for Game 5 Sunday night at 7 PM at Consol Energy Center.