NHL Game Summary - Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay
(Tuesday, March 4th)
Final Score: Pittsburgh 2, Tampa Bay 0
Tampa, FL ( Sports Network) - Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 35 shots he faced, and Sidney Crosby assisted on the go-ahead goal in his return to the lineup as the Pittsburgh Penguins topped the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-0, at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Crosby returned after missing 21 games with a high ankle sprain. He suffered the injury against the Lightning in Pittsburgh January 19.
"As the game went on, I got a little more tired," Crosby said. "It's been a while since I played a game and obviously I haven't really gotten a chance to do tons of skating, so it's good to get it over with and get that feel and timing a little bit back."
Maxime Talbot scored the go-ahead goal and added an assist for the Penguins, who had lost four of six entering Tuesday. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 38th goal in the win.
The win gave the Penguins 83 points, one point ahead of New Jersey for first place in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. The Devils thumped Toronto, 4-1, Tuesday night to keep pace with Pittsburgh.
Mike Smith made 21 saves for the Lightning, who have lost seven of eight overall.
"We played good enough to lose," said Lightning coach John Tortorella.
After more than 57 minutes of scoreless hockey, Pittsburgh finally broke the deadlock with 2:47 left in regulation. Talbot picked up a rebound of Crosby's shot in a crowd of players in front of the net and shoveled the puck past Smith for the first goal of the game.
"Things happen in a game and you've got to make saves at right times in the game," Smith said. "Unfortunately, I didn't get that one."
Malkin added an empty-net marker with 4.9 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Pittsburgh's two scores in the final three minutes were in stark contrast to a game that, to that point, had served as a showcase for the two netminders.
Crosby nearly got the Penguins on the board on a breakaway late in the first, but Smith denied his backhand attempt. Martin St. Louis fired a rising slap shot from the right circle that clanged off the crossbar in the final 90 seconds as the teams finished a scoreless opening 20 minutes.
The Penguins were dominated in shot output, 24-10, over the first two periods, but Fleury kept the Lightning off the board through 40 minutes.
Petr Sykora had a chance to put the Penguins ahead on a penalty shot with 6:07 left in the frame, but Smith denied his backhand attempt and the game remained 0-0 heading into the final period.
Tampa Bay's best chance came just past the midway point of the third, when Vincent Lecavalier stole a pass from Crosby and cruised in on a breakaway, but Fleury kicked his shot away to preserve the tie.
"It's definitely good to get another win, and the shutout is always very good for a goalie," Fleury said.
Penguins center Jordan Staal left the game in the first period with bruised ribs...Pittsburgh finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Lightning failed to convert on their only opportunity...Crosby played just over 22 minutes, recorded three shots and won 11-of-15 faceoffs.
03/04 23:11:55 ET