On the same night that Jim Rutherford was honored as a finalist for the NHL’s General Manager of the Year award, three of his key acquisitions led the Penguins to a 4–2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final.
Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin each had a goal and an assist, and Nick Bonino added a helper to pace the attack.
That almost changed early in Game 4. They came out of the gates with real intensity, using their speed and a surprisingly effective forecheck to build up a quick 7-2 shot advantage. But it wasn’t 10 minutes before they started falling into old habits, coughing up pucks in the neutral zone and dropping back as the Pens attacked in waves.
It has to be maddening for the coach, who has spoken repeatedly about the need to simplify their game and get pucks to the net. The Pens deserve credit for not making that easy, but the Lightning continue to be their own worst enemies in this series.
If there’s one glimmer of hope, it’s that they may have discovered a flaw in Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray. Johnson’s goal slipped under his right arm, the same place that Drouin beat him in Game 2. If they ever start shooting the puck instead of looking for a better play, they at least have a target to aim for.