TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jason Zucker scored his second goal of the game 2:13 into overtime, and the Pittsburgh Penguins completed a three-game season sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-4 victory Thursday night.
Zucker was wide-open in the slot and one-timed a shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Penguins moved into the first wild card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the New York Islanders. Defenseman Jeff Petry scored twice in 25 seconds, Drew O’Connor also scored and Tristan Jarry made 27 saves for the Penguins. They have won four in a row overall — including a 7-3 victory over the Lightning in Pittsburgh on Sunday. “Obviously, we’ve got a ton of respect for that team,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said about Tampa Bay. “They’re an accomplished group, loaded with talent. They’ve got a quick-strike attack, they’re hard to play against, they’re deep. There aren’t too many weaknesses on that team. Our guys competed really hard. I think it means a lot to take four points from a team like that in the same week.” Ross Colton, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves for the Lightning. They’ve lost three in a row. “We just have to start playing with a little bit of confidence and believe in ourselves and get back to how we were playing,” Point said. “When we’re a confident group and we’re making plays, that’s when we’re at our best. So we’re just trying to get back to that.” Petry tied it at 1 at 6:06 of the second period with a screened shot from the top of the right circle that went through the legs of Vasilevskiy, then put the Penguins ahead at 6:31 from the lower left circle. “It’s cool to see, especially from a defenseman,” Jarry said of Petry’s back-to-back goals. “That second one was awesome.” Point got the Lightning even at 2 and extended his goals streak to six games at 9:39 when he scored his 38th of the season and 15th on the power play. Zucker put the Penguins ahead 3-2 with 4:54 left in the second period with a breakaway goal. But the Lightning tied it 39 seconds into the third when Stamkos scored a second after a power play expired. O’Connor’s goal at 6:39 of the third period put Pittsburgh in front for the third time, but Hedman’s wrist shot past Jarry with 4:10 left in regulation tied the game again. “We played well enough to win the game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s a game of mistakes and every team makes mistakes. The ones we made tonight all ended up in the back of the net. They were some poor decisions. It happens in games and many times it doesn’t end up in the back of the net. Tonight, and it seems like of late, they all are.” The Lightning took a 1-0 lead at 5:39 of the first period when Tanner Jeannot’s shot from the slot hit Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang in the face, then caromed off Colton and rolled into the net. Letang left the ice and did not return until late in the second period. “He took a puck to the face and he’s back 20 minutes later,” Jarry said. “I think it shows the character he has.”
Penguins defenseman Jan Rutta, who was part of the Lightning’s back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2020 and 2021 and the team that went to the Final in 2022, received a video tribute during the first media timeout. Rutta signed with the Penguins as a free agent last summer.
Forward Mikael Granlund had no points or shots on goal and was plus-1 in 16:16 of ice time in his first game for the Penguins, who acquired him in a trade with the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. Jeannot’s assist was his first point for the Lightning after being acquired from the Predators on Sunday.
Among the numerous Penguins fans in attendance were the players’ fathers. “We want to take them with us for the rest of the trip,” Sullivan joked. “I think it’s awesome for the dads to come and watch their kids in real competitive games and have success. It’s fun to watch them watch their kids.” UP NEXT
Penguins: At Florida on Saturday night.