Lightning beat Penguins 4-3, even Eastern Conference finals
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Ryan Callahan provided an early spark, Andrei Vasilevskiy made two big saves in the closing minutes to avoid a total third-period collapse and the Tampa Bay Lightning held on for a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Callahan tipped a shot past goalie Matt Murray just 17 seconds into the game. Andrej Sustr, Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson also scored and the Lightning rebounded from being badly outplayed in the previous two games to even the series 2-2 heading back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Sunday.
Vasilevskiy had a 4-0 lead entering the third period, but the Penguins didn't give up. Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin scored to give Pittsburgh hope, and Chris Kunitz's power-play goal trimmed the deficit to one with just under 7 minutes remaining.
Tampa Bay was outshot 16-7 over the final 20 minutes after dominating the first two periods.
Marc-Andre Fleury replaced Murray in goal for the Penguins at the start of the third, and Kessel's team-leading eighth goal began the rally that just fell short.
The Lightning were outshot 89-49 in the previous two games, a disparity that coach Jon Cooper called ''unacceptable'' after the Penguins took a 2-1 series lead.
But the experience of the highs of lows of last year's playoff run to the Stanley Cup final has served the defending conference champions well over the past month.
While acknowledging there was a sense of urgency to play better, Cooper and his players insisted the team was not overly discouraged after being badly outplayed in Games 2 and 3 because they been down in series before and found ways to come back.
Callahan's first goal since Game 3 of the Lightning's second-round win over the New York Islanders got them rolling. Sustr's second career playoff goal – first this postseason – made it 2-0 at 14:28 of the opening period.
Drouin and Johnson scored in the second to build the lead to 4-0, with Drouin's goal coming with a minute left in a four-minute power play that Penguins were unable kill with defenseman Kris Letang in the penalty box for cross-checking and roughing.
The Penguins, relentless in Game 3 when they took 48 shots en route to a 4-2 victory, were unable to convert a couple of good scoring chances in the first period and had limited opportunities until finally cracking Vasilevskiy in the third.
Kessel scored at 1:18 of the third period, beating Vasilevskiy from above the right circle. The goal was his team-leading eighth of the playoffs, with Nick Bonino and Brian Dumoulin picking up assists.
Malkin scored at 11:13 and the Penguins drew closer when Kunitz added his goal with 6:52 remaining.
Murray stopped 26 of 30 shots through two periods. Fleury finished with seven saves.
Notes: Injured Lightning captain Steven Stamkos continues to practice, however there's still no definitive timetable for a possible return from surgery for a blood clot discovered near his right collarbone. ''I'm hoping to, but there's still a real possibility that I may not play at all in the playoffs. It's tough when you have two different parts of the spectrum,'' Stamkos said. ''It's either you're going to be able to play or it's just not safe to play. So we still haven't come to that decision yet. That's going to take a lot of information gathering and a lot of different opinions.'' … Penguins RW Patric Hornqvist played after missing the closing minutes of Game 3, when he was shaken up blocking a shot. … Both teams went 1 of 4 on power-play opportunities.