Pittsburgh claims sole Eastern Conference lead with 8-1 win over Tampa Bay
When it comes to hockey, the season seems too long and constantly changing for there to be many “statement games.” Yet when you beat a team by seven goals and not only force a team to pull a goalie but then make them go back to said goalie, maybe it’s safe to call it a statement game.
You can label the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 8-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning however you want, but make no mistake about it: the Pens humiliated the Bolts in this contest. To paraphrase Bruce Boudreau in his post-Winter Classic press conference, it’s ultimately only two points, but Pittsburgh emphatically justified their position atop the East above Tampa Bay (and 13 other teams).
When it comes down to it, Steven Stamkos’ embarrassing penalty shot gaffe was a microcosm of the game itself, with Tampa Bay falling flat and Pittsburgh coasting to victory.
The Penguins can be happy that the rout didn’t depend solely on Sidney Crosby, either. The superstar center earned one assist, but he was upstaged by his hard-hitting linemate Chris Kunitz, who scored a hat trick in the game. It was a great game for the team’s attacking defensemen, as Alex Goligoski scored one goal and three assists while Kris Letang provided three helpers as well.
Dwayne Roloson was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period, then found himself back in net after Dan Ellis allowed three of his own. The 41-year-old Roloson then allowed two more as he produced a polar opposite performance compared to his shutout of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
The Penguins gave themselves a small lead over the Flyers for the Atlantic and the Lightning for the top spot in the East. Tampa Bay is still ahead of Washington, but that lead is smaller after this beating.