The Lightning picked up their eighth straight win when Gourde took a cross-ice feed from Brayden Point and ripped the puck over Matt Murray‘s right arm. Gourde’s seventh goal of the season created a mob scene near the Pittsburgh net as Tampa Bay improved to 20-2-1 since Dec. 23.
Mikhail Sergachev scored his ninth goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots for Tampa Bay, which played the third period and overtime without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov. He left late in the second with a lower-body injury.
Evgeni Malkin got his 18th goal for Pittsburgh and Murray finished with 36 saves but didn’t get his right arm high enough fast enough to get a piece of Gourde’s winner. Jason Zucker played 15:26 in his debut with Pittsburgh after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota on Monday night.
The Penguins, who have been searching for a replacement for injured All-Star forward Jake Guentzel, moved aggressively to land Zucker. Pittsburgh sent forward Alex Galchenyuk, defensive prospect Calen Addison and a conditional 2020 first-round draft pick to the Wild in exchange for Zucker, a proven two-way player who can do a little bit of everything.
Pittsburgh didn’t exactly give Zucker time to get settled. In the span of 24 hours, he went from playing on the fourth line on a team with fading postseason hopes to serving on the top line with Sidney Crosby for a franchise where reaching the playoffs has been a given for well over a decade.
The Penguins have remained in the mix thanks in large part to a resiliency up and down the lineup that this deep into the season appears ingrained. That didn’t stop general manager Jim Rutherford from mortgaging a bit of the future in hopes of making Pittsburgh a serious threat to win its third Stanley Cup in the last five years.
As persistent as the Penguins have been through the first four-plus months of the season, they haven’t been quite as spectacular as the Lightning. Tampa Bay has been the NHL’s best team since Christmas, a stretch that included a taut victory over Pittsburgh last week and a 2-1 overtime triumph at Columbus on Monday night. The victory over the Blue Jackets offered a small – very small – level of solace after Columbus stunned Tampa Bay in the opening round of the playoffs last spring.
If the win drained the Lightning, it didn’t exactly show. They peppered Murray early but still found themselves briefly playing from behind when Crosby’s hard slap shot from the right circle smacked off Vasilevskiy and directly to Malkin in the left circle. The Russian pounded home the rebound 11:31 into the first.
Tampa Bay responded early in the second when Sergachev’s wrist shot from the point snaked through a sea of players and over Murray’s right arm. The goal 3:59 into the second ended a streak of 13 successful penalty kills for the Penguins.
NOTES: Several members of the gold-medal 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team – including assistant coach Craig Patrick (who later served as Pittsburgh’s general manager for 17 years) and captain Mike Eruzione – held a ceremonial puck drop in advance of the 40th anniversary of the ”Miracle on Ice.” … Both teams went 1 for 4 on the power play.
Lightning: Welcome Edmonton on Thursday. The Oilers will be without star Connor McDavid, who is out two to three weeks with a quad injury.
Penguins: Host Montreal on Friday night. The teams have split their first two meetingsthis season.
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