Penguins have good timing

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:45 PM ET

Michael Rupp has a new stats category in mind -- TGs -- that if the NHL adopts, the Pittsburgh Penguins would certainly lead in 2010-11.

"Timely goals -- we've got to be up there," Rupp said Tuesday as his short-handed team reflected on being up 2-1 in this series against the Lightning. "It's a confidence thing. We're doing it without 87 (Sidney Crosby), 71 (Evgeni Malkin) and others. Credit our coaching staff that without those guys, we didn't change our (offensively oriented) game plan."

The TGs in Game 3 came from Rupp's fourth-line bud Arron Asham, after Rupp dodged a big hit from Victor Hedman at the Bolts' blueline, then passed through a diving Pavel Kubina. That came 45 seconds after Max Talbot's opening goal, an odd-man rush that started when defenceman Ben Lovejoy stayed in the path of freight train Steve Downie to make the breakout pass.

Just 31 seconds after Tampa's dynamic duo of Vince Lecavalier and Martin St, Louis tied it in the third period, Tyler Kennedy scored from a draw that the Pens did well to control. After three games, Asham and defencemen Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik lead the team with three points, while a handful of others have one.

Talbot was asked how good the team could be with its big guns.

"That's not our focus right now," he insisted. "They're not here. We don't have the same firepower of other teams, but we've dealt with that almost all season."

Crosby skated Tuesday for the first time in three days, but coach Dan Bylsma cautioned it was part of a prescribed rehab program by doctors and did not signal a return this week. The concussed Crosby still can't be subjected to physical contact.

Eric Tangradi and Mike Comrie are candidates to replace the suspended Chris Kunitz for Game 4 Wednesday, while Eric Godard and Nick Johnson are other possibilities. With Downie also missing Game 4, Tampa has recalled forwards Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones from Norfolk of the AHL, but might just add a seventh defenceman as it has much of the year.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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