The Pens won this game by three goals, but this was no cakewalk. It played out exactly how the playoffs are going to play out, if only because the Pens have no other choice -- keep the game tight, stay out of the box, destroy Stamkos on his first shift, and make the simple play. But make no mistake about it -- that's a winning formula.
The Lightning had the advantage in the first period if you discount Stamkos getting vaporized on his first shift. The Pens tilted the ice in the second and looked poised to score before Tampa was saved by the bell. And then the third period happened.
- James Neal had his best game as a Penguin. Bodies were bouncing off of him, he was getting pucks to the net, and, finally, he and Kovy got on the scoreboard. As Artistry pointed out in our excited post-game phone conversation, "Is there anyone who steps up more in the playoffs than Kovy?"
- If anyone has a right to be happy about the game, it's the one man who is probably busy planning his lineup for game 1 of the 2012 playoffs: Ray Shero. Kovalev from Neal and Martin. And then Arron Asham, probably fresh off some sushi with Hilary Duff, went coast-to-coast and busted out a Lemieux-esque celebration. I'd say those signings and trades are paying off.
- Quote of the night from Paul Steigerwald after ROOT showed #66 in the owner's box: "Mario. [skips a beat]. Greatness comes in many forms. [5 seconds of silence]"
- Pens may have landed the first blow, but Tampa isn't going anywhere. Keep two feet on the ground. Ryan Malone is going to be in your face, whether you like it or not.
Go Pens. Come back tomorrow for a full recap.