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Bad bounce victimizes unfortunate Letang

by Shawn P. Roarke
MONTREAL -- Kris Letang, good for so much of this postseason run, was in the wrong place at the wrong time Thursday night in Game 4.

It is the worst nightmare for any player in the playoffs, to be responsible for your team's loss through nothing more than misfortune. Thursday, that nightmare visited Letang at the Bell Centre as Montreal's Brian Gionta used Letang as pinball bumper to bank a centering pass off the defenseman's right skate and past a caught-in-between Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pittsburgh goalie.

To make matters worse, that goal, at the 3:40 mark of the third period, proved to be the difference in an eventual 3-2 victory by the Canadiens that evens this best-of-7 series at two games apiece.

Not surprisingly, Letang did not want to discuss what happened as the Penguins silently packed up for what will likely be a very somber plane ride back to Pittsburgh. Instead, he will relive those fateful few seconds, forgetting the other 19 minutes of near-flawless hockey that he played Thursday night.

But his teammates insist there is no reason for Letang to harp on the negative.

Fleury, who was not at his best Thursday, 48 hours after recording an 18-save shutout in Game 3, told Letang that above the din celebrating Gionta's goal.

"No worries, it happens," is what Fleury says he told Letang. "He has to keep playing the same way. He was doing everything right, trying to block the pass. He's doing fine."

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby also chimed in to pick up Letang.

"You tell him not to worry about it," Crosby said. "It's easier said than done, obviously. Nobody feels good when that happens. We still had a lot of time at that point. You tell him to stay with things. He's still got to go out there and do the same thing. You just try to encourage him and make sure his mind is on what we've got to do next."

That was the same message veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik was trying to relay in his comments to the media.

"You can say it is a good bounce (for Montreal); but if Gionta doesn't throw it there, it never goes in," Orpik said. "I think it was more us turning the puck over there at the offensive blue line that gives them a 3-on-2."

And Pittsburgh still had more than 16 minutes to erase Letang's personal nightmare. They couldn't get it done, despite numerous chances. Jaroslav Halak made nine third-period saves and Montreal dropped back into its suffocating trap and hung on for dear life.

"I don't think we changed the way we played (after Letang's miscue)," Crosby said. "Obviously, they get a big goal like that and they come harder and they are a little more confident, playing with energy and things like that. But I don't think we moped around or felt sorry for ourselves.

"I thought we generated some real good chances after that. Whether it goes in off his skate or is a pretty pass; whatever the case is, they scored. You got to bounce back. We've all had to deal with that before -- tough goals or tough breaks. You just got to keep playing your game."

Thursday night, Pittsburgh's game was not good enough. As a result, this Eastern Conference Semifinal series is now a best-of-3 affair with Pittsburgh still holding home-ice advantage.

Will the favored Penguins be able to shed the memory of Letang's miscue and come back to advance, as expected?

According to the Penguins, the nightmare is already forgotten.

"Those bounces are going to happen," Orpik said. "We get good bounces, they get good bounces."

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