Pens stifle Stamkos, blank Bolts in playoff opener

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Penguins opened the NHL playoffs with a 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, continuing to thrive on tight defense in the absence of forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 32 shots he faced and received chants of "MVP" from the home crowd after recording his fifth career playoff shutout.

Tampa Bay sniper Steven Stamkos, who finished the regular season as the second-highest goalscorer with 45, was held to just one shot as the No.5 seeded Lightning lost in their first post-season appearance since 2007.

"That was fun. All game long the fans were really loud," Fleury told reporters. "(Home ice) is something we fought for all season and they showed why it's important to get it."

The home offense came alive in the third period, Alex Kovalev getting the breakthrough goal at 6:05 and Arron Asham netting 18 seconds later.

Chris Kunitz added a wrister into an empty net with 42 seconds left as the Lightning pushed to get back into the game.

With Crosby and Malkin out injured for much of the second half of the season, the Pens, seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference, have been forced to rely more on stout defense than the offensive firepower they have been known for in recent seasons.

"All the youngsters were nervous -- whether (Stamkos) or the other guys," said Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher. "I'm sure he'll be better the next game."

Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson made 37 saves in the loss.

Pittsburgh lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 and will also host Game 2 on Friday.

In other first-round playoff games, Detroit defeated Phoenix 4-2 while Alexander Semin netted the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 triumph over the New York Rangers.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Peter Rutherford)