Pens take series lead in Tampa

Tampa Bay Lightning's Sean Bergenheim fights off a check from Pittsburgh Penguins' Mike Rupp....

Tampa Bay Lightning's Sean Bergenheim fights off a check from Pittsburgh Penguins' Mike Rupp. (REUTERS/Mike Carlson)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:13 AM ET

TAMPA BAY - When the subject turns to making sacrifices at playoff time, Dan Bylsma will have a clip of Ben Lovejoy handy from Monday night. "That officially defines taking a hit to make a play," the Pittsburgh coach said of his defenceman ensuring the puck was cleared from behind his net before getting run over by the Lightning's Steve Downie. "There are little things about the playoffs that make it special, take the game to a higher level and make the intensity factor." By staying in the line of fire, Lovejoy was able to send Max Talbot on the rush that started Pittsburgh to a quick lead and silenced the St. Pete Times Forum, so deafening a few minutes earlier for their team's first home playoff date in three years. Just 45 seconds later, Pittsburgh's fourth line made it 2-0 en route to the 3-2 win that gives it a 2-1 series edge. The Pens are not only in command without the banged up Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, they beat the Bolts when their dynamite combination of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were at their best, Unfortunately for Tampa and its playoff starved fans, everyone else seemed too caught up in the post-season hoopla to play smart 5-on-5 hockey. Downie was too excitable for sure, headed to the box for the Lovejoy hit before Talbot scored and taking a delay of game call later in the game. "We talked a lot about keeping our structure," said Lightning coach Guy Boucher. "But when that big hit happened, everybody had their eyes on it and they came our way and scored out of nothing. If you don't manage your emotions you're cooked, if you don't manage X's and O's, you're cooked." Slightly dazed, Lovejoy got up to see all the Pens celebrating the goal. "I knew it was going to be a hit like that," Lovejoy said. "It's the Stanley Cup playoffs, you take hits to make plays and Max made him pay." The Lightning were far from dead. At 2:12 of the third, after Lecavalier drew an interference call on Paul Martin, the Bolts' captain beat Talbot on a draw and tipped an Eric Brewer pass on net for St. Louis's second of the night with the man advantage. But Tyler Kennedy scored just 31 seconds later from a scramble on a draw the visitors nicely controlled. "Disappointing," Boucher said. "We were extremely aware of what they were going to do (on the winner) and two of our guys were a little late doing it." The Lightning had the anticipated loud reception from 20,545 at the Forum after winning Game 2 handily in Pittsburgh. But as a lengthy pre-game ceremony took place - thanking those who stayed loyal through three dry seasons, reviewing 2010-11 and then Games 1 and 2, you had the feeling the excess was going to work against the Bolts. That's exactly what transpired after Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury weathered the first rush to show he was not rattled by a poor outing on Friday. After Talbot's goal, Michael Rupp was just trying to chip a puck past Victor Hedman and wound up on a 2-on-1 with Arron Asham. Rupp slid the puck under a diving Pavel Kubina to an open Asham. Goal-challenged Steven Stamkos picked up his first NHL playoff point on St. Louis's first goal, but Boucher correctly pointed out the Bolts can't win solely on special teams, even though they're a perfect 15-for-15 on the penalty kill as well. "They got some puck luck that we didn't," said losing goaltender Dwayne Roloson. "(On the Kennedy goal) I got bumped into by our guys trying to clear. "That's sports, it's a roller coaster. We have to forget about this and come back, be ready to play our game, for 60 or 70 minutes, whatever it takes." It took a bad penalty to Lecavalier - bumping Brooks Orpik twice in front of the referee - before Tampa got the early frustration out of its system. But Pittsburgh won its sixth straight Game 3 and is now 10-1 under Bylsma since 2008. Fleury, meanwhile, improved to 12-4 in playoffs following a loss. lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca Twitter.com/sunhornby

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