|The Pittsburgh Penguins completed a three-game sweep of Western Canada for the first time in franchise history.
Both times, he was denied. In the end, though, it didn’t matter.
Rookie defenseman Kris Letang scored in the sixth round of the shootout against a superb Roberto Luongo as the Pittsburgh Penguins swept three games in Western Canada for the first time in franchise history with a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place on Saturday night.
The win was Pittsburgh’s fourth straight and seventh in eight games. It came just two nights after Letang got the shootout winner in Calgary, beating Miikka Kiprusoff to give the Penguins a 3-2 win.
“I think I did the same thing as (Thursday) night,” Letang said. “I put a move in my head. I was scared a little bit that he saw the replay last night and that he’d remember that move. I just wanted to change it.”
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury injured his ankle early in that game, which paved the way for Dany Sabourin to get the start on Saturday against his former team. Sabourin was sensational, stopping 35 shots in 65 minutes and five of six chances in the shootout against the team he played for last season.
Performances like that will more than likely mean more playing time for Sabourin this season than the backup netminder originally expected.
“They told me about 20 games,” Sabourin said. "Obviously with the injury, I think I’ll probably finish with more games. You never know what can happen during a season.”
Luongo was the reason why there even was a shootout. The best of the 2007 Vezina Trophy runner-up’s 31 saves was a brilliant stop on Crosby after the Hart Trophy winner was awarded a penalty shot 2:29 into overtime when he was pulled down from behind by defenseman Aaron Miller. Crosby was able to get Luongo to drop to the ice, but Luongo got his arm on Crosby’s forehand shot.
“I thought I had him,” Crosby said. “The second one, I probably rushed a little bit more because the pucks started to roll on me. Those are opportunities that you thrive on. Unfortunately, they didn’t go in, but for other guys to step up, it’s big.”
Petr Sykora gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 18:19 of the opening period. Coming down on a 2-on-2 rush with Evgeni Malkin, Sykora took a pass from Malkin and ripped a shot past Luongo for his 10th goal of the season.
After a scoreless second period that featured a combined 31 shots on goal, Ryan Kesler tied the game 3:40 into the third. Kesler was able to get Sabourin out of position before firing a wrist shot from near the right circle that beat Sabourin to the far side to make it 1-1. It was Kesler’s eighth goal of the season and revitalized the sellout crowd.
“It was an exciting game to play,” Kesler said. “It wasn’t just another game against Minnesota or Colorado. I think it lived up to expectations. We just came up short in the end.”
After Kesler was stopped in the opening round of the shootout by Sabourin, Erik Christiansen gave the Pens a 1-0 lead when he fired a wrist shot past Luongo. Veteran center Trevor Linden kept the Canucks alive when he beat Sabourin the third round to make it 1-1, but Taylor Pyatt hit the post in Round 4 before Sabourin brilliantly poke-checked the puck away from Markus Naslund in the following round.
In Round 6, Henrik Sedin failed to break the 1-1 tie when he missed the net, which provided Letang another opportunity to be the hero. In his second career shootout chance, Letang once again did not disappoint, as he faked a backhander, then stuffed a forehand shot past Luongo.
“Our goaltender made some great saves, and their goaltender made some great saves,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “Right now, we haven’t been on the right side of those shootouts. It’s not from lack of willingness on the players’ part.”
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.