Penguins win in shootout
Letang's goal in tiebreaker, Fleury's 29 saves key to victory against Hurricanesby Kurt Dusterberg / NHL.com Correspondent
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes went end-to-end through much of regulation, then dialed it up a notch in overtime. In the end, a single shootout goal made the difference.
After the first five shooters in the tiebreaker failed to score, Kris Letang made two small dekes to his forehand before lifting a backhand shot under the crossbar to give the Penguins a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Friday.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves, including two in overtime, to help the Penguins (28-19-7) win for the seventh time in nine games.
"It felt like a track meet on the bench," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "There was a lot of pace in that game. It seemed like when either team got hemmed in, they got hemmed in when their team was tired. It's tough to get guys to the bench in those circumstances."
Video: PIT@CAR: Kessel opens the scoring in the 2nd period
That was especially evident in overtime. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang pressured Carolina relentlessly. Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who made four of his 25 saves in the extra period, denied Hagelin charging down the slot at 2:45, then stopped Crosby on a backhand at the top of the crease at 3:09.
"Those are kind of extended shifts with a lot of puck battles," Crosby said. "You feel it a bit. But you have to make plays when you're tired."
Fleury's best stop in overtime came against Elias Lindholm in the slot at 3:22.
"We used guys who were successful in overtime," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "We go with guys who add pace to the game. Certain players know what to do."
The Hurricanes (24-21-10) played a strong first period, but had nothing to show for it thanks to the work of Fleury. He left Andrej Nestrasil and Kris Versteeg looking into the rafters in disbelief after stopping prime scoring chances. First, Fleury came across the crease to rob Nestrasil on a backhand, then he made a glove save to deny Versteeg from point-blank range.
Video: PIT@CAR: Nestrasil scores short side in the 3rd
"It's always fun for a goalie when you can make those saves," Fleury said. "Like when the guys get a goal, they get a good rush. For goalies, when you make a good save, keeping [the score] tight, and seeing the guys looking up, it feels good."
After being outshot 13-8 in the first period, the Penguins knew they needed a better effort.
"We were kind of watching and we made some mistakes that gave them momentum," Crosby said. "We gave them some really good zone time, and [Fleury] faced a number of Grade A scoring chances from them and made some big saves for us early on. He definitely held us in there and allowed us to regroup in the second period."
Phil Kessel put the Penguins up 1-0 at 15:43 of the second period with his 16th goal. He beat Ward with a sharp-angled shot on the short side under the blocker after taking a pass from Matt Cullen from below the goal line. Hagelin got the second assist.
Video: PIT@CAR: Ward comes up big in overtime
"We're obviously a better team when he scores," Sullivan said of Kessel. "He shoots the puck differently than most guys. It comes off his stick in a way that is different. He's a dangerous guy when he gets inside those dots, regardless of the angle. On the goal, he had a real quick release, and it probably surprised Ward a little bit."
Pittsburgh held on to the lead through much of the third period until Nestrasil scored on a wrist shot from the right circle, beating Fleury over the glove with 5:18 remaining. Nestrasil's eighth of the season was assisted by Joakim Nordstrom and John-Michael Liles.
"I didn't see it," Fleury said. "I could see it [at first], but then he dragged it behind the defense and shot through his leg. I didn't pick it up, and it was in the net."
It was the first time the Penguins failed to win in regulation after entering the third period ahead (21-0-0).
Video: PIT@CAR: Ward stacks the pads for save
"As a team, I don't think we played well, but we found a way to win," said Letang, who played a game-high 27:14. "Obviously, we backed up a little too much in the third, let them skate around the zone and have quality chances. We have to learn from that."
The Penguins penalty kill was sharp, holding the Hurricanes without a shot on three power plays. Carolina played without defenseman Justin Faulk, its top power-play scorer (12 PPG), who was held out after falling hard into the boards during practice Thursday.
The Hurricanes have lost three out of four, scoring one goal in each of the losses. But they have had no shortage of offensive looks.
Video: PIT@CAR: Fleury denies Versteeg with the glove
"In the first period, I thought we had some real good chances to get us up by one, but it didn't happen," captain Eric Staal said. "Then a lot of looks both ways, 3-on-3 up and down the ice. Just unfortunate that we couldn't get one there in the shootout for Cam."
The Hurricanes host the New York Islanders on Saturday. The Penguins play at the Florida Panthers on Monday.