Penguins hold strong against Lightning, take 2-1 series lead; Kunitz suspension coming?

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It wasn’t pretty and there will be a lot of things aside from the game that will be discussed aside from the game, but Pittsburgh earned a huge Game 3 win in a rough game with Tampa Bay taking out the Lightning 3-2 and taking a 2-1 series lead.

Despite the Lightning getting a pair of power play goals from Martin St. Louis, Tyler Kennedy’s early third period goal broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Penguins a big win to take back home ice advantage in the series. Marc-Andre Fleury stood tall in this game making 25 saves and again providing the Penguins with the steady play in goal they needed to win.

What’s going to be talked about most in this game are a pair of dirty hits, one from each team. Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz caught Simon Gagne in the back of the head with a targeted and very purposeful elbow. Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie caught Pittsburgh defenseman Ben Lovejoy with a leaping blindside check that put Lovejoy down on the ice. Expect both players to hear from the NHL in one way or another and certainly expect to see both of them get hit with a suspension.

The Versus panel of Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick discuss Kunitz’s elbow on Gagne after highlights of the game.

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As for Downie’s hit, it took place just before Maxime Talbot scored the first goal of the game and it was a thundering blow.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported tonight that both Kunitz and Steve Downie will have disciplinary hearings with the NHL tomorrow morning to decide what, if anything, will happen to them going forward.

That extracurricular stuff aside, the series has been just what we were expecting it to be: A tight-checking, physically demanding and close series. Both teams are rolling with strategies that make their coaches look more like chessmasters than head coaches. Figuring out ways to break each other down and expose weaknesses has become as big a priority for both Dan Bylsma and Guy Boucher as lineup management is.

Scoring isn’t easy in this series and figuring out ways to make life better for their offense requires sneaky strategy. They’ll need to be more on the ball in Game 4 as both teams will likely have to make a lineup change with the nonsense from Kunitz and Downie.

What do you think Kunitz’s punishment will be for his elbow on Simon Gagne? Will he escape punishment the way Raffi Torres did or is he going away for a while? Let us know in our poll.