PITTSBURGH (AP) Mark Streit was dealt from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh in the span of a few hours at the trade deadline on Wednesday.
If his head was swimming, it hardly showed. The veteran defenseman wasted little time making an impression with the Penguins, scoring the go-ahead goal in the third period as Pittsburgh pulled away from the Lightning 5-2 on Friday night.
”Pretty crazy,” said Streit, who also had an assist. ”I never experienced it, the quick turnaround and the travel. The staff, the coaching staff and the players have all been tremendous, helped me out big-time. I felt comfortable right away.”
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Looked like it.
Streit darted from the point to the front of the Tampa Bay net early in the third period and was in perfect position to send Sidney Crosby’s cross-ice feed by Peter Budaj 2:38 into the third period to give Pittsburgh the lead for good.
”(Crosby’s) got six eyes on his head,” Streit said. ”He sees everything. It’s impressive.”
So were the Penguins over the final two periods as they pulled into a tie with Columbus for second in the crowded Metropolitan Division. Evgeni Malkin scored twice off assists from Phil Kessel and added an assist of his own in his 700th career game. Justin Schultz had a goal and an assist and Tom Kuhnhackl put in an empty-netter as Pittsburgh swept the season series from the Lightning.
Matt Murray finished with 27 saves for the Penguins, who scored twice on the power play after getting just one power-play opportunity combined in losses to Dallas and Chicago earlier in the week.
”They’re such great players that when they don’t force it and take what the game gives them, they see the plays that are there,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.
Adam Erne picked up his first NHL goal for Tampa Bay and Nikita Kucherov collected his 28th, but the Lightning lost precious ground in the scramble for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Budaj stopped 30 shots in his first start with the Lightning after coming over in a trade from Los Angeles.
”A couple lucky bounces (for them), but when you have possession and you have some odd-man rushes, you have to have bounces,” Budaj said.
Ten months after going a full seven games in the Eastern Conference finals, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay find themselves heading in opposite directions with five weeks to go in the regular season.
Pittsburgh is jockeying for position in the nearly claustrophobic fight with Columbus and the New York Rangers behind front-running Washington in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins invested heavily in their defense at the trade deadline, acquiring Streit, Mark Hainsey and Frank Corrado to shore up a blue line decimated by injuries.
The Lightning, meanwhile, are on the fringe of the playoff chase while missing stars Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan. Tampa Bay unloaded goaltender Ben Bishop and veteran forward Brian Boyle and even served as a go-between of sorts for the Penguins and the rival Flyers. The Lightning acquired Streit from Philadelphia on Wednesday morning for forward Valtteri Filppula and some draft picks, and then flipped Streit to Pittsburgh just hours later.
The Penguins need all the healthy bodies they can get along the blue line with Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley out several weeks and Kris Letang battling an upper-body injury that forced him to miss a fourth straight game.
Streit fit in seamlessly, playing 19:31 and giving Pittsburgh the boost in needed after Kucherov’s goal tied it at 2 just 1:10 into the third. Barely 90 seconds later, Pittsburgh was back in front to stay.
”We score early and it’s a tie game and then we give it up the next shift,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. ”You just can’t do that because we just kept chasing the game.”
NOTES: Crosby’s two assists gave him 69 points on the season, second-most in the NHL. … Malkin has 17 goals in his last 15 games against Tampa Bay. The Russian star is the seventh player to play in 700 games for the Penguins. … Tampa Bay scratched D Luke Witkowski. … The Penguins scratched F Carter Rowney and Ds Derrick Pouliot and Letang. … Murray’s 24 wins tie the franchise record for most victories by a rookie set by Gary Inness in 1975.
Lightning: Travel to Buffalo on Saturday. Tampa Bay has won both meetings with the Sabres this season.
Penguins: Host Buffalo on Sunday. The Sabres beat Pittsburgh in overtime on Nov. 19.