The Lightning Hold Off Penguins, Lose McDonagh

Anthony Cirelli. second from right, celebrates with teammates, including defenseman Victor Hedman and center Tyler Johnson, after his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA — Killing off a 5-on-3 against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins is no small feat.

Especially when that two-man disadvantage lasts 1:34.

Especially after losing defenseman Ryan McDonagh to what appeared to be a leg injury after blocking a shot in the second period.

Killing it off is what the Lightning did Thursday night while clinging to a 3-2 third-period lead. They went on to beat the Pens, 4-2, to run their home win streak to eight games and points streak at Amalie Arena to 10 (9-0-1).

“That’s two games in a row now we had to go with five D-men,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who lost the services Jan Rutta on Tuesday night against Vegas and who did not have an update on McDonagh. “You really feel it in the penalty kill with as much as we were shorthanded in the third. The guys were phenomenal to get through that.”

The Lightning, who have won five straight, took a 2-0 lead in the opening period on goals by Mikhail Sergachev and Steven Stamkos, who turns 30 on Friday.

After the Penguins made it 2-1 when a Patric Hornqvist centering feed went off Evgeni Malkin’s right knee and past Vasilevskiy at 9:25 of the second period, the Lightning had an immediate response.

Victor Hedman gathered in a loose puck that bounced right to him and sent an outlet pass to Anthony Cirelli, who skated down the left wing and wristed a shot past Tristan Jarry on the short side at 9:57 to restore the two-goal lead. That proved to be the game-winner.

“They got one there, off (Malkin’s) leg and in,” said Cirelli, who has five goals and 12 points in his last nine games. “But we just kept battling and I think we got a lucky bounce there, too, to go the other way. Luckily it goes in for us and creates momentum. I think the whole night everyone was buying in, playing the right way and sticking to our game plan.”

Hedman’s assist was one of three on the night for the defenseman, who was a plus-4 and logged a game-high 27:24. He spoke highly of Braydon Coburn, who stepped in for Rutta after not having played since January 14 against the visiting Kings.

“Cobie hadn’t played in a while and I thought he had a great game tonight,” said Hedman. “He played hard and played a lot of big minutes for us.”

Hedman’s third assist was on Nikita Kucherov’s empty-netter with 33 seconds remaining.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 shots to run his points streak to a team-record 17 games at 15-0-2. He came into the evening tied with Nikolai Khabibulin. Vasilevskiy’s last regulation defeat was December 14 versus Washington.

The Lightning wrap up their three-game home stand Saturday night (7:00) against the Islander.

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Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.