TAMPA, FLORIDA – Sidney Crosby and Co. kept pressing and shooting until the Pittsburgh Penguins finally imposed their will.
Crosby, Phil Kessel and Chris Kunitz scored third-period goals to help the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night.
Carl Hagelin snapped a scoreless tie late in the second period and Matt Murray had 26 saves for the Penguins, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and proving that they’re far from a one-man show.
“You don’t win consistently without depth,” Crosby said after scoring the winning goal for the second time in three nights.
Game 4 is Friday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Crosby’s power-play goal off a pass from Evgeni Malkin restored a two-goal lead midway through the final period. Kunitz also beat goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy from the right circle to make it 4-1.
“It was a 4-on-3 so we had a one-timer on either side and (Malkin) was in a good spot to shoot it at the top of the ice,” Crosby said. “He’s just smart with the puck and he’s going to make the right decision. I don’t think I called for it but maybe I did.”
Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat scored for the Lightning. They have lost two straight after winning the series opener in Pittsburgh. The defending Eastern Conference champions were outshot 48-28, including 38-16 over the last two periods.
“Every team is good offensively when they play in their system,” Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said. “Our system is to play north-south and get the puck deep. When we do that we have a good chance to win.”
Vasilevskiy won Game 1 in relief of the injured Ben Bishop and the Penguins took Game 2 in Pittsburgh when Crosby scored the first overtime playoff goal of his career less than a minute into the extra period.
The Lightning were outshot by a combined 76-41 in the first two games, but weren’t as concerned with that disparity as much as by a lack of good scoring chances — a problem they hoped to rectify by coming out more aggressive to try to put more pressure on Penguins goalie Matt Murray on Wednesday night.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5