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Power play stalls as Pens fall to Lightning

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Martin St. Louis scored his 30th goal of the season, helping the Tampa Bay Lightning clinch their first playoff berth since 2007 with a 2-1 victory over the Penguins on Thursday night. Pittsburgh got a goal from Mike Rupp.

Tampa Bay 2 - Pittsburgh 1
St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL

Tampa Bay clinched its first playoff appearance since 2007 and stayed in contention for home-ice advantage Thursday night, topping the Penguins 2-1 at the St. Pete Times Forum. Pittsburgh outshot Tampa 37-24 in a likely first round playoff preview, but the Pens couldn't convert on five power play opportunities as Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson earned the game's first star with 36 saves. Mike Rupp was the only Penguin to get the puck past the 41-year-old, as Steve Downie and Martin St. Louis notched goals for Tampa.
 
With the loss, the Penguins (45-25-8) are stuck at 98 points and sit just three points ahead of the Lightning (42-24-11) for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. The top four teams in the conference earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
 
First Period
The Pens began by giving the Lightning a man advantage, as Paul Martin was called for interference on Steve Downie just 39 seconds into the game. But Pittsburgh did kill off the penalty and had two great scoring chances early on. Dwayne Roloson turned away Pascal Dupuis' breakaway slap slapshot while short-handed. A couple minutes later, Chris Kunitz stripped the puck from Tampa's Eric Brewer and set up Tyler Kennedy, but Kennedy's wrister sailed over the net.
 
Neither team got many shots on net in the period (eight for Tampa, six for the Pens), but the Lightning made theirs count. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped a Simon Gagne backhander, but Downie then poked the puck into the net at 4:51 to give Tampa the lead.
 
The Lightning stretched their lead to two at 10:13. The puck got dumped into Pens territory, and Kris Letang went to retrieve it. Vincent Lecavalier forechecked Letang into the boards and appeared to wrap his arms around him, but no penalty was called. Martin St. Louis then swooped in for an uncontested shot, sizzling one past Fleury on the top shelf.
 
While the Pens had two power play chances in the second half of the period -- Pavel Kubina and Lecavalier were both called for hooking penalties -- the club's comatose PP unit couldn't take advantage of the opportunities.
 
Second Period
Pittsburgh smothered Tampa's offensive attack, as the Lightning didn't get off a single shot on Fleury until Ryan Malone was rebuffed on a wrist shot at 11:04 in the period. Overall, the Pens held a 14-6 shot advantage over the Bolts in the second. Yet, they couldn't manage to narrow the deficit despite two more power play chances.
 
James Neal came closest to getting the Pens on the board during a 4-on-4 stretch of hockey, but he was denied on a wrist shot and crashed into the boards behind the net at around the 13:00 mark. Moments later, Neal was back in front of Roloson and peppered him with a backhand shot close to the net. Roloson turned him away again, though, continuing Neal's scoring woes with his new team.
 
The period ended with a flurry of penalties, with Downie getting called for boarding on Kennedy and Victor Hedman picking up a roughing call at the same time. Kennedy picked up a roughing penalty of his own, wanting to scuffle with the 6-6 Swede, but Hedman wanted no part of the fight. With less than a minute left, Neal got a holding penalty on Dominic Moore. But Steven Stamkos slammed into Fleury, who had come well out of the net, with less than a second left to set up a 4-on-4 situation to begin the third period.
 
Third Period
Tampa and Pittsburgh got back to full strength, but Mike Rupp finally ended the Pens' goose egg at 4:31 into the period. Alexei Kovalev pinballed the puck off the boards to keep it in Tampa's end, and Rupp got off a weak wrist shot from 40-plus feet. The Lightning's Mike Lundin screened Roloson, though, and the puck got over the goalie's shoulder and found the top of the net.
 
Fleury made an exquisite save at the 6:31 mark, spreading out and snatching a St. Louis slapshot out of midair. But Ryan Malone broke loose toward the net a couple of minutes later. To stop a potential goal, Rupp lunged and stuck out his stick, garnering a tripping penalty. The Pens killed off that penalty, and they managed not to get burned while they were a man down again after Kovalev cross checked Sean Bergenheim at 15:36.
 
Roloson proved impenetrable down the stretch, however, stopping shots on goal by Letang, Paul Martin and Kunitz in the game's final minute after the Pens pulled Fleury from the net. The 41-year-old Roloson emphatically grabbed Kunitz's slapshot as time expired, clinching a playoff appearance for the Bolts.
 
Score Sheet
Goals:
PIT- Mike Rupp (7); TB- Steve Downie (9), Martin S. Louis (30)
Assists: PIT- Alexei Kovalev; TB- Simon Gagne, Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Victor Hedman
Special Teams: PIT 0 for 5; TB 0 for 4
 
In the Net
PIT
: Marc-Andre Fleury 22-24
TB: Dwayne Roloson 36-37
 
No. 87 on the ice
Sidney Crosby participated in the Penguins' morning skate today at the St. Pete Times Forum. Crosby, out since January 5 with a concussion, resumed individual workouts on March 14 and recently got clearance from team doctors to take part in non-contact practices on game day. Crosby is not ready to participate in full practices, however, and both GM Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma maintain there is no time frame for No. 87's return.
 
Jeffrey scheduled for surgery
Center Dustin Jeffrey will undergo surgery on his injured right knee on Tuesday, putting his playoff availability in doubt. Jeffrey hasn't suited up since Philadelphia's Jeff Carter fell on his knee on March 24.

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