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1KRIS: Getting the Win Makes Letang's Milestone Night a Perfect One

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Following Pittsburgh's 4-2 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday, Tristan Jarry briefly addressed the room before crossing it to hand out the player of the game helmet.

"Great game fellas, all around. But Tanger, for 1,000," the goaltender said.

And the Penguins franchise defenseman accepted it with a huge grin on his face.

"Thank you, guys, for making it perfect with that win," said Kris Letang, who became just the 15th defenseman in the NHL's modern era (since the 1967 expansion) to win three Stanley Cups and play in 1,000 games.

The milestone evening began after the players arrived at the rink that afternoon. Letang's teammates, coaches and hockey ops staff - along with Tom Werner and Dave Beeston of Fenway Sports Group - presented him with personalized gifts to commemorate the game. They included a new watch, as Letang collects them, and a Formula 1 experience, as he's a big fan of the sport.

Tweet from @penguins: Before tonight's game, @Letang_58 was honored by his teammates and ownership in the locker room. Congratulations on 1,000 NHL games, Tanger! #1Kris

For Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin's 1,000th games, their teammates copied parts of their warmup routines to pay homage. Letang had said the other day he was kind of scared to see what the guys had planned for him, (half) joking, "because I have the craziest warmup, and they hate me for it."

After they all took the ice wearing his No. 58 jersey, the Penguins joined Letang in part of his stretching routine at the blue line, which he ended up getting a kick out of. "I have so many things I'm doing out there. I didn't know which one they were going to pick. But it was pretty funny," he said.

Though the moves looked a bit complicated, and fly more under the radar compared to Sid and Geno, Bryan Rust said there was no pregame choreography needed to make sure that they were all on the same page.

Tweet from @penguins: Warmups, Kris Letang style.#1Kris

"Everybody pretty much knows what the guys do on the ice in warmups," he said. "It looks pretty chaotic, but it's pretty much organized almost every time. So, we were all pretty familiar with it, and it was well-known ahead of time that we were going to do that." 

When the Penguins walked out of the locker room to take the ice ahead of puck drop, Letang - who is third to last, ahead of Crosby and Malkin - stopped for a moment so that he could be joined by his son Alex, in full gear, complete with his dad's jersey.

Kris and Alex walked side-by-side onto the ice and skated a lap together before the starting lineups were announced… which had been recorded by Alex before the game. He read them wearing a custom suit from GLORIUS designed by founder & CEO J. F. Bedard, who works with Kris on his suits.

Tweet from @penguins: If Alex Letang doesn't want to be a hockey player when he grows up, he might have a knack for broadcasting!

"Alex did pretty good. I was pretty happy to see that he wanted to get involved," Kris said before adding with a laugh, "he's way better than me in front of a camera! So, it was pretty cool that he's a part of that day. Then it was pretty emotional, having my son on the ice with me. That kind of made it perfect."

From there, they headed over to the Zamboni gate to join Letang's wife, Catherine, and their daughter Victoria. The Letang family watched the incredible tribute video highlighting his career that featured messages from Crosby and Malkin, with Kris joining them as the only players in franchise history to skate in 1,000 career games with the Penguins. They are the second trio in NHL history to play their first 1,000 career games with one team, following Los Angeles' Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.

Tweet from @PenguinsPR: The @penguins' 'Big Three' of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are the second trio of teammates in NHL history to each play their first 1,000 career games with one team. #1Kris

Crosby and Malkin skated over to present Letang with the customary silver stick awarded by the NHL for this milestone, along with mini replicas for his kids, before Kris and Alex went to the blue line for the national anthem. The DICK'S Sporting Goods Junior Starter that the Penguins host every game always lines up next to Letang, so it made perfect sense for it to be Alex tonight.

From there, Letang admitted it was somewhat of a challenge to refocus in the first five minutes of play. "The entire day was kind of different, you know? Like, heart racing, your mind is just thinking about so many things," Letang said.

But he did, and ended up logging a season-high 30:13 of ice time, which was only fitting for a player whose physical fitness is off the charts, and part of what makes him so special. He played a big role in the win on what will be an unforgettable night.

"It's such a special group that we have here," Letang said. "I've played that 1,000 games with Sid and Geno… it's just special. Obviously the fans, they always believed in me. I think it was a special night, a lot of emotion. But you got to refocus and say the two points are more important right now. So it was cool to get the win."

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