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Impressive Lightning hold off late Penguins rally to level series
 


afp

Washington

Ryan Callahan scored after only 27 seconds and the Tampa Bay Lightning held off a furious Pittsburgh rally for a 4-3 victory on Friday to level their National Hockey League playoff series.

The Lightning equalised the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 2-2 with game five on Sunday at Pittsburgh and game six on Tuesday in Tampa.

The Penguins-Lightning winner will face the Western Conference champion, either the San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues, in the Stanley Cup Finals.

"We played the first two periods really well," Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said.

"A little nerve wracking there in the third period but it doesn't matter how, we got it done and we're moving on."

Down 4-0 through two periods, the Penguins replaced goaltender Matt Murray, the team's playoff stalwart through two rounds, with Marc-Andre Fleury, who had been the regular starter but had not played since March 31 due to a concussion.

"He was solid. He was moving good. He made some good saves," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Fleury, who made seven saves.

"We're down four goals. When you make a change like that, sometimes it has an impact on your team."

While Fleury silenced the Lightning, the visiting Penguins rallied to throw a scare into Tampa Bay.

Pittsburgh snapped the shutout streak 78 seconds into the third when Phil Kessel scored his eighth goal of the post-season.

Russian winger Evgeni Malkin found the net with 8:47 remaining in regulation to lift Pittsburgh within 4-2 and Chris Kunitz stuffed in a rebound shot just 1:55 later.

The Penguins removed Fleury in the final 90 seconds for an extra attacker in a bid to net the equaliser, but could not complete the comeback bid.

"It's hard to chase a four-goal deficit," Sullivan said."They were the more determined team in the first half of the game. We made a run at them in the third period but there was just not enough time."

Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 35 saves, 13 of them in the hectic last period.

"Playing a little too safe in the last few minutes," said Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison."They have lines that can roll and they showed it. They aren't going to sit back. They have a lot of firepower. When we get a lead we have to keep it."

Coming off a 4-2 home-ice thumping by Pittsburgh in game three, Tampa Bay took the game-four lead only 27 seconds into contest as 31-year-old right wing Ryan Callahan netted the second-fastest goal in Lightning playoff history.

Andrej Sustr, a Czech defenseman, gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead with 5:32 remaining in the opening period.

Jonathan Drouin boosted Tampa Bay's lead to 3-0 on a power-play goal with 5:22 remaining in the second period, adding to the Penguins' woes after they failed on two extra-man chances of their own earlier in the middle period.

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang picked up a double-minor penalty, serving four minutes in the box, and Drouin struck with one minute remaining in the second penalty to dim the Penguins' comeback hopes.

Tyler Johnson added his sixth goal of the playoffs for the Lightning just 3:10 later to put Tampa Bay ahead 4-0 entering the third period.


 
 

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