The Penguins suffered yet another blow to their already-depleted lineup on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings, when forward Dustin Jeffrey left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return.
But Pittsburgh soldiered on and gutted out an impressive 2-1 overtime win, powered by Jordan Staal’s game-winning goal and the energetic lift provided by the Penguins’ four recent call-ups from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
The Penguins’ defensive excellence has been accented with their top offensive guns being out, and that was especially the case on Friday as Pittsburgh allowed the Kings just one goal through almost 65 minutes. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek was especially strong for the Penguins, making two goal-saving plays in the crease on two separate occasions. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury posted yet another outstanding performance between the pipes for the Penguins, making 32 saves.
Despite being outshot 12-5 in the first period, the Penguins rebounded with a vengeance, allowing Los Angeles just two shots in the middle frame while simultaneously firing 11 shots at Kings goalie Jonathan Quick during that 20-minute span. While the Penguins couldn’t solve him that period or the next one, Pittsburgh continued to attack the Kings’ net hard and Staal was finally able to get the puck past Quick with just 18.4 seconds remaining in overtime.
The victory was head coach Dan Bylsma’s 100th-career win, making him the third coach in franchise history and the fastest Penguins head coach to reach that milestone. With the win, the Penguins sit just three points behind Atlantic Division rival and Eastern Conference leader Philadelphia.
Jordan Staal has been quietly logging monster minutes for the Penguins with injuries to three of Pittsburgh’s top-four centers. With his season-high 24:41 of ice time on Thursday, Staal has now played 20-plus minutes in 12 of the 15 games that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has missed.
And on Thursday, Staal was rewarded with mere seconds remaining in overtime.
The Penguins center netted the game-winning goal with just 18.4 seconds left in the extra period when he blasted a shot from the slot past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to lift Pittsburgh to a 2-1 victory. Staal had been attacking the net with a vengeance in the overtime period and had a number of chances before his drive found the back of the net.
The goal was his fourth of the season and his first in 10 games. Staal finished the night with five shots on goal and a 10-5 record in the faceoff dot.
The Penguins got a power-play opportunity early in the second period with the score tied at 1-1, when Kings captain Dustin Brown got sent to the box for cross-checking at the 1:30 mark.
But as luck would have it, the Kings got an opportune shorthanded scoring chance just over a minute into the Penguins’ power play. Alexei Ponikarovsky wheeled down the ice and strong-armed his way past Pittsburgh’s blueliners to whip a shot at Fleury.
Fleury made an outstanding diving play and somehow managed to block the puck from entering the net with his stick while sprawled on the ice. The play kept the score tied at 1-1 throughout the rest of regulation and allowed Jordan Staal to tally for the Penguins in overtime to win the game for his team by a score of 2-1.
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Jordan Staal scored the winning goal with 18.4 seconds left in overtime to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 win over the Los Angles Kings on Thursday night.
Neither team had scored since the first period and it appeared a shootout was on the way. Staal ended that when he ripped a shot past Jonathan Quick for his fourth goal and give the Penguins a needed burst of good news in a tumultuous week.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby stopped by the morning skate and said there is no timetable for his return from a concussion. The Penguins have been gutted by injury and played four callups plucked from the minors on Thursday morning.
Brett Sterling, one of those callups, scored his first goal for the Penguins. Jarret Stoll scored for the Kings.
- Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma recorded his 100th career NHL win on Friday. Bylsma is the fastest head coach in team history to reach 100 wins, as he achieved the mark in just 163 games. That also makes him the fifth-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 100 wins, surpassing Washington's Bruce Boudreau (164 games). Bylsma is just the third coach in Penguins franchise history to record 100 wins after Eddie Johnson and Michel Therrien.
- Brett Sterling, who was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League earlier this morning, scored his first goal as a Penguin with 13:07 remaining in the first to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. His goal would prove to be crucial, as the two teams ended regulation time deadlocked at 1-1.
- Sterling’s tally came while on the ice with fellow call-up Nick Johnson and Dustin Jeffrey. Johnson cycled the puck back to Jeffrey as a trailing Sterling snuck into the slot. Jeffrey hit Sterling with a perfect pass, and the 26-year-old ripped it top shelf past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
- Sterling’s goal was his first as a Penguin since signing a free-agent contract with Pittsburgh this past summer. It was also his first NHL goal since Oct. 24, 2008 while with Atlanta, the team that drafted him in the fifth round (145th overall) in the 2003 Entry Draft. Prior to Thursday, Sterling had amassed two goals and four points in 19-career NHL games.
- Forward Dustin Jeffrey left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Jeffrey had earned a helper on Brett Sterling’s first-period goal before being sidelined. Bylsma announced following the game that Jeffrey would not be accompanying the team to New York, saying “He will not be going with us on the trip. He’s getting evaluated by our doctors (Friday).”
- Defenseman Zbynek Michalek came up with two huge defensive plays for the Penguins. The first came with 13:28 left to play in the first. The Kings’ Justin Williams had deked around Fleury and had a wide-open net, but Michalek swooped in and swept the puck out of danger. Sterling went on to score on the resulting play just 21 seconds later.
- Michalek’s second heads-up play came with 5:20 remaining in the opening frame. A shot squeezed under Fleury and was loose in the crease with the Kings’ Andrei Loktionov ready to pounce. As he went for the kill, Michalek tied up his stick and shielded him from the puck.
- The Penguins wore their dark blue “Winter Classic” jerseys on Thursday for the first time since debuting the sweaters in a 3-1 loss to Washington in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field on New Year’s Day. The Penguins are now 7-3 so far this season when wearing either dark blue or light blue.
#1. Jordan Staal
Center - 11
Season-high 24:41 TOI
10-5 on faceoffs
#2. Marc-Andre Fleury
Goaltender - 29
32 saves on 33 shots
26th win of season
#3. Jarret Stoll
Center - 28
Author: Michelle Crechiolo