Two rookies score first NHL goals to lift Penguins over Lightning
The names in the lineup change. The results when the Pittsburgh Penguins face the Tampa Bay Lightning do not.
Sidney Crosby is out with the mumps. Forward Beau Bennett likely too. Another handful of regulars are wearing suits instead of game sweaters. And yet it doesn't seem to matter.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 shots, Bryan Rust and Brian Dumoulin scored their first NHL goals and Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Monday night.
''I think it was really important for us to show the young guys in the lineup and guys coming in with injuries we can still play together as a team and come out with a victory,'' Dumoulin said.
Brandon Sutter added a short-handed goal and Steve Downie had a goal and an assist as the Penguins beat the Lightning for the 10th straight time. Sutter outplayed Tampa Bay star center Steven Stamkos, limiting Stamkos to just one shot in 19 minutes of ice time. The Lightning have dropped four of five.
''I'm getting a little tired of losing, period,'' Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. ''I thought we carried the play for a lot of the game to be honest. We scored three goals on ourselves, three. They scored four, three went off us (into) the net.''
Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov scored for Tampa Bay. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop left after the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves in two periods and took the loss. Cooper said Bishop will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
''We're playing some good teams now and it's not good enough to be able to compete in games, so we have to look ourselves in the mirror,'' Stamkos said.
The Penguins have managed to remain atop the Metropolitan Division despite a slew of setbacks for several regulars, including Crosby, Beau Bennett, Chris Kunitz, Olli Maatta and Pascal Dupuis. Bennett, already out with a lower-body injury, spent Monday in isolation while the team waited for test results to indicate whether he is the latest NHL player to come down with the mumps.
The myriad personnel issues has forced coach Mike Johnston to get creative. Pittsburgh started forward Rob Klinkhammer -- acquired from Arizona earlier this month for depth -- on the top line with Evgeni Malkin and Blake Comeau. Monday's lineup included the likes of youngsters like Rust, Dumoulin, Andrew Ebbett and Bobby Farnham.
The Lightning have dealt with little adversity while getting off to the best start in franchise history but have cooled of late. They came in having lost three of four but worked quickly to establish control. Tampa Bay fired off the game's first nine shots, with only some spectacular play by Fleury keeping the Penguins in it. The goalie used his armpit to stuff a point-blank flip by Alex Killhorn, giving his team time to find its skates.
Pittsburgh didn't record a shot until Comeau's slap shot when the game was 11 minutes old, but Sutter gave the Penguins the lead with a beautiful breakaway with 51 seconds left in the period. Sutter beat two Tampa Bay players down the ice then zipped a wrist shot over Bishop's right shoulder for his eighth career short-handed goal.
The lead lasted all of 25 seconds, as Drouin banged in a rebound to make it 1-1, but the NHL's highest scoring team would not find the back of the net again.
Nabokov entered at the start of the second period and the Penguins wasted little time testing him. Rust took a centering feed from Ebbett and blasted a wrist shot over Nabokov's outstretched glove 2:55 into the second.
Steve Downie, a career grinder unlikely pushed to the top power play line by default, popped in his fifth of the season with 34 seconds remaining in the second. Dumoulin's slap shot from the point 7:47 into the third extended Pittsburgh's dominance in the series since the Lightning knocked the Penguins out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
''The organization has that depth and players have come up and played well, and we've really needed that,'' Sutter said. ''They come up and look comfortable and are on a roll when they come up. That's a big part of our success because you're going to need that over an 82-game season.''
NOTES: Pittsburgh went 1 for 4 on the power play. The Lightning were 1 for 3. ... Tampa Bay's last win vs. Pittsburgh came on Nov. 17, 2011. ... The Penguins host Colorado on Thursday. ... Tampa Bay's five-game road trip continues Tuesday in Philadelphia.