TAMPA, Fla. – This was one special goal, even for Zenon Konopka.
Konopka celebrated his 29th birthday with a rare goal and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Saturday.
“I don’t know if it’s better on your birthday or against the Stanley Cup champs,” Konopka said. “Obviously, it would have meant nothing if we lost, so a game-winner on your birthday is pretty cool.”
Tampa Bay went up 2-1 on Konopka’s second of the season, a rebound effort at 14:26 of the second. He has six goals in 79 career games.
Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie also scored for the Lightning, who have won five of seven. Tampa Bay has played better since Konopka called out himself and his teammates for their poor play following a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 23.
“We’re not there yet just because we won a few games,” Konopka said. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s starting to change in the right direction.”
Bill Guerin scored for the Penguins, who have lost four in a row. Sidney Crosby, who has one goal in his last seven games, and Evgeni Malkin, without a goal over his past four games, were shut out again.
“The urgency level now should be there if it has not been,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “And maybe it hasn’t been, looking at our record over the last few games.”
Downie made it 3-1 from the right circle at 7:11 of the third.
St. Louis put the Lightning up 1-0 with a backhander at 1:03 of the first. The right wing has three goals and 10 points during a seven-game point streak.
Guerin’s rebound backhander tied it with 2:45 left in the first.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made a pad save on Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier’s penalty shot with 15:16 remaining in the third. Fleury allowed a penalty-shot goal to Buffalo’s Drew Stafford on Dec. 29.
Malkin hit the post during a 2-on-1 midway through the third. Mike Smith also stopped an in-close chance by the Pittsburgh centre.
Smith made 25 saves, while Fleury had 34 stops.
The Penguins, who entered tied for the NHL’s worst power play, went 0-for-4 with the man advantage. Pittsburgh has converted just two of its last 32 road power-play opportunities.
“There’s no real excuses,” Crosby said. “We’re not executing and we’re paying the price for it. We’ve got a group who’s got a lot of character and pride in their game, but our focus has got to be on executing.”
NOTES: Paramedics were called to the Pittsburgh coaches room shortly after the game. Bylsma said “No” when asked if there was any problems. A team spokeswoman declined comment. … Penguins D Sergei Gonchar, hit in the right foot by a shot Wednesday, didn’t play. … Tampa Bay recalled RW Brandon Bochenski from Norfolk of the AHL. … Guerin has 421 career goals, including 13 this season. … Lightning C Steven Stamkos and D Mattias Ohlund each had two assists in the game.