TAMPA, FLA.—Ryan Callahan provided an early spark and Andrei Vasilevskiy made two big saves in the closing minutes to avoid a total third-period collapse as the Tampa Bay Lightning held on for a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Callahan tipped a shot past goalie Matt Murray just 17 seconds into the game. Andrej Sustr, Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson also scored and the Lightning rebounded from being badly outplayed in the previous two games to even the series 2-2 heading back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Sunday.
Vasilevskiy had a 4-0 lead entering the third period, but the Penguins didn’t give up. Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin scored to give Pittsburgh hope, and Chris Kunitz’s power-play goal trimmed the deficit to one with just under 7 minutes remaining.
While acknowledging there was a sense of urgency to play better, Cooper and his players insisted the team was not overly discouraged after being badly outplayed in Games 2 and 3 because they been down in series before and found ways to come back.
Callahan’s first goal since Game 3 of the Lightning’s second-round win over the New York Islanders got them rolling. Sustr’s second career playoff goal — first this post-season — made it 2-0 at 14:28 of the opening period.
Drouin and Johnson scored in the second to build the lead to 4-0, with Drouin’s goal coming with a minute left in a four-minute power play that Penguins were unable kill with defenceman Kris Letang in the penalty box for cross-checking and roughing.
The Penguins, relentless in Game 3 when they took 48 shots en route to a 4-2 victory, were unable to convert a couple of good scoring chances in the first period and had limited opportunities until finally cracking Vasilevskiy in the third.
Kessel scored at 1:18 of the third period, beating Vasilevskiy from above the right circle. The goal was his team-leading eighth of the playoffs, with Nick Bonino and Brian Dumoulin picking up assists.