GLENDALE, Ariz. - With a bevy of scorers to choose from for the third round of the shootout, Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma raised a few eyebrows by selecting rookie center Mark Letestu for the assignment.
The element of surprise was all he needed.
Letestu had the only goal of the shootout, beating goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with a quick shot between the pads as the Penguins salvaged the last game of their Western road trip with a 4-3 victory over the Coyotes on Saturday night.
"I kind of knew where I was going to go," said Letestu, who went over the boards after Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang were stopped by Bryzgalov in the first two rounds. "I had a lot of success in the minors and in practice, and I was happy Dan called my number. I knew what I was going to do -- the other guys were deking, so I decided to try to be quicker than the goalie and surprise him."
Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson came on in relief of struggling starter Marc-Andre Fleury and stopped 22 of 23 shots in regulation and all three in the shootout -- thanks in part to a quick scouting report from former Phoenix defenseman Zybnek Michalek. Johnson stopped Radim Vrbata, Wojtek Wolski and Lauri Korpikoski to set Letestu up for a game-winning chance.
"Z told me about their shooters … that Vrbata likes to go to the backhand and it helped because I just nicked it," said Johnson, now 6-1-1 this season. "You never like to come in cold, but I thought the guys gave me some time to get comfortable and we won a game we really needed."
Phoenix, an NHL-best 17-1-6 in overtime games last season, fell to 0-4 this season and 0-3 at home with Saturday night losses to Detroit, Carolina and now Pittsburgh. The Coyotes fell to 1-4-2 against Eastern Conference opponents.
The Coyotes played without captain Shane Doan, who is week-to-week with a lower-body injury suffered in Dallas on Friday, and top defenseman Ed Jovanovski (flu). But Phoenix, which has struggled to get offense from its forwards, got a pair of goals on their first five shots to chase the struggling Fleury after 6:56 of play.
"We did a lot of good things, we just have to learn to play with a lead," said Phoenix center Eric Belanger, who scored 2:35 into the game. "After it was 2-0 (on Vrbata's goal), we were just sitting back a little too much instead of going after the next goal."
Wojtek Wolski also scored for Phoenix, while Evgeni Malkin, Crosby and Chris Kunitz had goals for the Penguins, who dominated play in the second half of regulation and the overtime, including a power play for the last 1:21 of the extra period.
The Penguins, who came to the desert 1-4-1 in their last six games after digging a 3-0 hole in a 3-2 loss at Anaheim on Friday, found themselves in another hole but were able to escape this time.
"We've worked hard the last couple of night and it was nice to find a way to win," said Crosby, who scored his third goal in the last two nights off a Derek Morris turnover 1:16 into the second period to ignite Pittsburgh's comeback. "Everyone's working hard, and I think that's kind of a contagious thing."
Malkin struck just 3:02 later, picking up his own blocked shot and beating Bryzgalov high from a tough angle to get the Penguins even.
Wolski, who was scratched twice last week, put Phoenix back in front with his first goal of the season. His shot deflected off Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin and went in off the far post at 15:36.
"I think I was just fed up, embarrassed," Wolski said. "It just got to the point where I watched enough games (on tape) … and watched No. 86 on the ice and thought 'Who is that guy and why is he out there?' "
But after Sami Lepisto and Martin Hanzal were called for penalties 50 seconds apart -- and Bryzgalov made huge saves on both Malkin and Crosby -- Kunitz cashed in with 34 seconds left in the period to knot the game at 3-3.
|Eric Belanger (3) ASST: Wojtek Wolski (6), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (3)|
1 - 0 PHX
|Radim Vrbata (4) ASST: Ray Whitney (5), Kyle Turris (2)|
2 - 0 PHX
|Sidney Crosby (9) ASST: NONE|
2 - 1 PHX
|Evgeni Malkin (4) ASST: Arron Asham (2), Paul Martin (7)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Wojtek Wolski (1) ASST: Eric Belanger (5), Lee Stempniak (4)|
3 - 2 PHX
|PPG - Chris Kunitz (3) ASST: Mark Letestu (4), Sidney Crosby (10)|
3 - 3 Tie
|1||R. Vrbata||S. Crosby|
|2||W. Wolski||K. Letang|
|3||L. Korpikoski||M. Letestu|
|Power Play %||19.3%||20.0%|
|% on Road||16.4%||23.2%|
|% at Home||22.0%||17.0%|
|Pascal Dupuis Interference against Adrian Aucoin|
|David Schlemko Cross checking against Mike Comrie|
|Zbynek Michalek Hooking against Ray Whitney|
|Paul Bissonnette Fighting (maj) against Deryk Engelland|
|Deryk Engelland Fighting (maj) against Paul Bissonnette|
|Arron Asham Tripping against Martin Hanzal|
|Sami Lepisto Hooking against Mike Comrie|
|Martin Hanzal Elbowing against Mike Comrie|
|Matt Cooke Boarding against Sami Lepisto|
|Ray Whitney Hooking against Pascal Dupuis|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson Holding against Tyler Kennedy|