PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Once again, the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't
perform like a championship team should during a key stretch of its season. The difference was they were playing anything but a championship-quality opponent.
Brad Richards and Vaclav Prospal beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on consecutive shots in a shootout and the Lightning held off the Pittsburgh Penguins' third furious but unsuccessful rally in three games, winning 5-4 on Tuesday night.
Dan Boyle scored twice and the Lightning shook off a post-Olympic slump by starting an important five-game trip with their first victory in four games, despite squandering a 4-1 lead in the third period. The 2003-04 Stanley Cup champions began the road swing in seventh place in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race.
"You get a power play and you think, 'We get one here, the door's shut,'" Tim Taylor said of Boyle's second goal, 21 seconds into the third. "But the way things are going for us, we will take the two points."
Sidney Crosby scored his first goal since the break and assisted on another as the Penguins again fell behind by a multi-goal margin before coming back. They lost to Ottawa 4-3 last Wednesday night after trailing 4-0 and 7-5 to Ottawa on Saturday night after falling behind 5-0.
This time, rookie Ryan Whitney scored his second career goal and first since Dec. 1 to tie it with 56 seconds remaining. But neither Jani Rita nor Crosby could get the puck past goalie John Grahame in
the shootout, and the Lightning won it when Richards and Prospal each used inside-out moves to fake out Fleury, who had stopped initial shooter Vincent Lecavalier.
"We were embarrassed at home, embarrassed for ourselves and embarrassed for the fans," Boyle said. "Now we have a chance to feel better about ourselves."
Dmitry Afanasenkov and Fredrik Modin scored in regulation for the Lightning, who were outscored 18-4 during three consecutive
home losses following the Olympic layoff -- including a 4-0 loss to Ottawa on Monday night.
No doubt the Lightning couldn't have picked a better time to play the NHL-worst Penguins, who are 0-3 this season and 0-7 over the last two seasons against Tampa Bay and are 7-18-7 overall at home.
"Our confidence is fragile after we got outplayed in the three games at home, so maybe it was good to get out on the road," Prospal said.
Despite giving up goals to Crosby, Josef Melichar and Whitney in the third, Grahame improved to 9-1-1 against Pittsburgh by turning aside 23 shots.
After starting each of the three consecutive losses by allowing their opponent to score on its first shot, the Lightning got an early goal this time -- by Boyle three minutes in, though it may have been inadvertent. He threw the puck behind the net from near the blue line, and it banked off the glass, skipped off the top of the net and off Fleury's back and into the net.
"I planned that," Boyle said.
Boyle's 13th goal of the season came early in the third and made it 4-1. With the Lightning on an extended power play resulting from Rob Scuderi's double-minor near the end of the second, Boyle put in a Ryan Craig rebound.
Pittsburgh's rally began seconds after Michel Ouellet left the ice after being slammed in the mouth by Cory Sarich's stick, with the Penguins already on a power play, but no penalty was called. Ouellet went to the locker room after picking up at least one tooth from the ice.
Immediately after play resumed, Crosby circled wide and then went hard to the net to score off a Sergei Gonchar rebound.
Whitney's goal came on a one-timer from the top of the right circle and was nearly his second of the game. He was originally credited with Pittsburgh's first goal, on a power play in the second, but it was later credited to Ryan Malone for redirecting the shot.
"When you start losing, it can be hard to shake it," Crosby said. "But, eventually, we're going to turn it around. It's going to change if we keep competing the way we are."
Each team was without a suspended player: Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik (three games for running Carolina's Erik Cole into the
boards) and Tampa Bay right winger Evgeny Artyukhin (two games) for slamming a helmet into Ottawa's Antoine Vermette on Monday. ... Mark Recchi assisted on Melichar's goal, giving him 21 points in 14 games (11 goals, 10 assists. ... The shootout was the first in Pittsburgh since the Penguins split consecutive shootouts against Montreal (win) and the Islanders (loss) on Nov. 11 and 14.