Thursday, November 09, 2006

Penguins 3 - Lightning 4 (OT): Nils' Nattrick Not Enough

Nils Ekman knows that playing with Sidney Crosby will mean plenty of scoring opportunities. Last night, Ekman finally cashed in one some of those nice passes with the Natural Hat Trick.

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh's lack of defence caught up to them and they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Frightning.

Sidney played well and assisted on 2 of Ekman's 3 tallies. In 23:01 of ice time, Sidney had 2 shots on goal, 3 hits (a team high), and went an impressive 13 for 18 on face-offs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning overcame Nils Ekman’s first NHL hat-trick Wednesday for a 4-3 overtime win over the Penguins.

Ekman completed the natural hat-trick in a span of 4:10 near the end of the second period. It was the fastest three goals scored by a Penguins player in the organization’s history. Lowell MacDonald held the previous mark with three goals in 4:17 on Nov. 13, 1973 against Minnesota.

“I think I was just the right guy in the right place at the right time. It’s not like I did that much. I was just in front of the net and some guys on our team made great plays – I was just standing there tipping them in,” Ekman said. “It is always a huge confidence builder for a forward to score goals. That is part of what I want to do to contribute to making us win. I would have hoped we could have gotten two points out of it and [the three goals] would have felt more important to me.

“It was a tough overtime loss.”

It was the second-straight overtime loss for the Penguins (7-4-2), who were played their first home game at Mellon Arena since Oct. 24.

“It was a tough game to play. We were coming back from the West Coast and the guys, you could tell, are not 100 percent mentally and physically,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “It’s always tough to make that adjustment. For a while, I thought we were pretty good in the second half of the game.

“It took us some time to get into the game, but the Lightning was playing really well and has been playing really well lately. It was a tough challenge for us,” he continued. “I have been in this position before in this league with teams coming back from a long roadtrip and that first game is always really, really demanding and really tough. At least we were in the game and could have won the game, but we got a point.”

Dimitry Afanasenkov gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead with 6:02 left in the first period. He deflected Nikita Alexeev’s shot past Marc-Andre Fleury.

Brad Richards boosted the Lightning’s lead to 2-0 with 9:48 left in the second period with a power-play goal.

With 6:28 left in the period, Max Talbot nearly scored for the Penguins. He ripped a shot off the crossbar on a 2-on-1.

Noah Welch rattled another puck off the post almost exactly two minutes later.

However, Ekman finally found the back of the net with 4:23 left. Standing at the top of the crease, he flipped the puck past Johan Holmqvist. Sidney Crosby and Sergei Gonchar had assists on the goal. Crosby, in the far corner, fired a pass across the crease. Ekman controlled the puck and quickly fired it into the goal.

Ekman struck again, this time with 1:41 left, when he deflected Ryan Whitney’s shot past Holmqvist for a power-play goal. Gonchar added another assist on the play.

Ekman completed the hat-trick with 12.3 seconds on the clock. In front of the crease, he one-timed Crosby’s pass behind Holmqvist for a goal. Colby Armstrong added the other assist.

The Mellon Arena crowd gave Ekman a standing ovation for his efforts.

Tampa Bay’s Eric Perrin tied the game 4:47 into the third period.

The contest went to overtime and Vincent Lecavalier won the contest for the Lightning when he broke in on goal alone and beat Fleury 2:41 into the extra session.

“It was the wrong guy to give the breakaway,” Therrien said.

The Penguins return to action Friday at home against Ottawa.

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