for this game

Penguins blank Lightning for early series lead

Apr 14, 2011 - 4:45 AM
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Alex Kovalev and Arron Asham scored 18 seconds apart in the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal from Consol Energy Center.

Marc-Andre Fleury, the East's only starting goaltender to have won a Stanley Cup, made 14 of his 32 saves in the first period for the Penguins.

"Fleury made some good saves," said Lightning center Steven Stamkos. "It seemed like we were one or two feet from the rebound every time, we just weren't in the exact position to convert."

Pittsburgh is the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference for the third consecutive season and narrowly missed out on the Atlantic Division crown, challenging Philadelphia until the final weekend, despite losing Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee) to injury for most of the second half. Crosby continues to practice with the team, but has not been cleared for contact. Malkin, meanwhile, underwent season-ending surgery in February.

In-season acquisition Dwayne Roloson stopped 37 shots for Tampa Bay, which -- under first-year general manager Steve Yzerman and rookie head coach Guy Boucher -- is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Kovalev broke the scoreless tie at the 6:05 mark of the third. Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina gloved the puck around the boards, but Pittsburgh rearguard Paul Martin stepped up to keep it in the Tampa Bay zone. James Neal collected the disc at the left point and made a slap-pass to an uncovered Kovalev, who converted the feed from below the right circle.

Moments later, Asham, celebrating his 33rd birthday, faked a slap shot and circled behind the Tampa Bay net before scoring on a wraparound after his initial shot was blocked by a Lightning defender.

"[Kovalev's goal] gave us a big confidence boost," Asham said. "Then I got a lucky one right after that. We're not getting ahead of ourselves. We're sticking with our game plan."

Chris Kunitz hit an empty net to seal the victory inside the final minute.

The Penguins will look to grab a 2-0 series lead on Friday before the scene shifts to Tampa.

Game Notes

Fleury recorded his fifth career postseason shutout...Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik collected two assists...Pittsburgh finished 0-for-6 on the power play, while the Lightning had only one opportunity with the man advantage...Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay are meeting in the playoffs for the first time...The Penguins are making their fifth consecutive postseason appearance...The two clubs split the four-game series during the regular season, with the home team winning each contest...Tampa Bay fell to 0-5 in the opening game of a playoff series on the road.