Neal lifts Penguins past Lightning 4-3

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PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma wanted his team to play a tight, low-scoring game against Tampa Bay on Saturday, figuring it’s what the Metropolitan Division leaders are likely to see when the postseason begins next month.

“That’s a game we’ve got to be comfortable playing,” Bylsma said.

Of course the Penguins are pretty good when the defense loosens up too. They gave Bylsma a bit of both in a 4-3 overtime win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.

James Neal’s searing slap shot over Anders Lindback’s right shoulder 1:27 into overtime capped a frantic final 15 minutes of play as the teams traded the lead three times. Neal’s power play goal extended Pittsburgh’s winning streak over the Lightning to nine straight.

Evgeni Malkin had two goals and two assists - including the setup for Neal’s winner - while Sidney Crosby added a goal and two assists for the Penguins. Jeff Zatkoff stopped 21 shots as Pittsburgh snapped Tampa Bay’s season-best five-game winning streak.

“I think we realize we’re playing some good teams and it’s important for us to make sure we have that desperation and find that level of play that we want going into the playoffs,” Crosby said. “I think that’s motivation enough.”

Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula and Ondrej Palat scored for the Lightning, who have recorded at least one point in eight straight games. Lindback made 25 saves but had no chance on Neal’s 23rd goal of the season.

The NHL’s best power play finished 3 of 6, including Neal’s rocket after the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice 1:11 into the extra period.

“It’s tough when they’ve got four of the league’s best scorers out there pretty much,” Lindback said.

The teams spent two periods playing the kind of conservative hockey more suited for late spring than the wide-open attacking style more fitting for two of the most offensively talented teams in the league.

No matter, they made up for it in the third.

Stamkos broke a 1-1 tie 8:17 into the final period when he poked a rebound underneath Zatkoff’s legs to put the Lightning in front. The lead lasted less than three minutes, as Malkin pounced on a rebound off a Matt Niskanen slapshot into an open net for his third goal in two games.

Malkin’s 23th of the season came with 3:17 left in regulation when he powered a shot by Lindback that seemed to deflate the Lightning.

“He was flying,” Crosby said. “He had the puck all night, drew a lot of penalties, generated a lot of chances. You can’t stop him when he’s going like that.”

Tampa Bay, revitalized since Stamkos‘ return from a leg injury two weeks ago, responded. Palat stunned the 319th consecutive sellout crowd at Consol Energy Center when he cleanly beat Zatkoff to tie the game at 3 with just 1:22 left in regulation.

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