It took less than three minutes into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final for controversy and drama to take hold between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
It started with Ryan Callahan running Kris Letang from behind into the boards, earning a major penalty for boarding but no game misconduct. Letang went to the Penguins dressing room, but did eventually return.
It took a frightening turn when Bolts goalie Ben Bishop was taken off the ice on a stretcher after suffering an apparent left-knee injury. He didn’t return, as 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy was suddenly called into action.
(You’ll recall Vasilevskiy started Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final due to a Bishop injury.)
It continued with Bolts forward Tyler Johnson being hurt on a knee-on-knee hit with Chris Kunitz late in the first period. Johnson also eventually returned, but another injury would’ve been a huge loss for Tampa Bay, which entered this series still without the services of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman.
Despite the devastating loss of Bishop — there has so far been no update on any injury he may have suffered — and the temporary loss of Johnson, as well as no Stamkos or Stralman, the Bolts were able to grab the early series lead with a 3-1 victory on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Penguins were able to beat Vasilevskiy only once. He was solid, making 25 saves on 26 shots for the win in relief in a difficult situation.
Malkin hasn’t recorded a point in five straight games.
The Penguins were also unable to capitalize on their five-minute power play in the opening period.