I wouldn’t call it déjà vu because there were a lot of very distinct differences between Saturday night’s contest with Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena and Friday’s tilt against Anaheim at the Honda Center. Before we get into those similarities and differences, the most important thing to take – and the biggest difference – was the Penguins earning the ‘W’ on Saturday with a 4-3 shootout victory.
Much like they did less than 24 hours earlier, the Penguins came out strong, outplayed their opponent, yet still found themselves down by a 2-0 count 6:56 into the opening period.
And just like they did on Friday, Pittsburgh mounted a valiant comeback effort, this time following a goaltending change from Marc-Andre Fleury to Brent Johnson.
Once again it was Sidney Crosby who led the comeback charge, this time with help from fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin. The two scored 3:02 minutes apart in the second period to erase a 2-0 Phoenix lead. They provided a spark for the entire team the way they were both dashing and darting around the ice, definitely intent on getting the Penguins back in the win column.
As great as Malkin and Crosby were, the Penguins were able to complete this comeback because Johnson once again stood on his head. The red-hot netminder stopped every shot he saw cleanly, with the only goal he surrendered coming after Wojtek Wolski’s shot first deflected off of Paul Martin before skidding behind Johnson.
The Penguins finished off the Coyotes in a shootout when Mark Letestu scored the first game-deciding shootout tally of his career by opening the legs of Ilya Bryzgalov and blistering home a wrist shot.
When Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma met with reporters in the locker room before Saturday’s game at Jobing.com Arena, he talked about the need for the Penguins to get receive more goals off the blade of Evgeni Malkin.
While Malkin wasn’t around as Bylsma spoke, the 24-year-old Russian superstar heeded his coaches advice, staying with a blocked centering pass and evening the score at 2-2 for the Penguins 4:18 into the second period.
It wasn’t just the goal by Malkin – his first since Oct. 21 at Nashville – that made him the star of the night for the Penguins. Rather it was the way Malkin was galloping along the ice like the Clydesdale he can be, weaving and driving his way through traffic, creating quality scoring chances for both he and his linemates.
The Penguins’ game-tying goal late in the second period by Chris Kunitz came as a result of Malkin loosening up the Phoenix penalty kill by firing howitzers from the left point. Again, that was something else Bylsma wanted to see from Malkin – more shots.
For the second straight night it appeared as though the Penguins were going to be done in by a tough early deficit after goals by Eric Belanger and Radim Vrbata gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead just 6:56 into the contest. At that point, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma elected to make a change in goal, switching from Marc-Andre Fleury to Brent Johnson. Like he has all season, Johnson slammed the door, stopping 22 of 23 shots in relief, and all three shootout attempts, to improve to 6-1-1.
(AP) - Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma had plenty of talented players to pick from in the third round of the shootout.
Using a move he perfected in the minors, Letestu scored the only goal of a shootout after Brent Johnson was steady in replacing goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and helped the Penguins rally for a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
• Mark Letestu’s game-deciding goal in the shootout improved the Penguins’ overtime record to 3-1 this season. Over the past two seasons, the Penguins have posted an impressive 17-8 record when the game stretches beyond 60 minutes. With the victory, Brent Johnson improves to 3-0 all-time in shootouts as a member of the Penguins. He has denied all 9 shots he has faced.
• The Penguins’ penalty killing unit put forth a fourth straight perfect evening as they denied all four Phoenix power plays. Pittsburgh has now killed off 32 of its past 34 times shorthanded for a success rate of 94.1 percent.
• Referees Brian Pochmara and Dan O’Rourke had to go to video replay to confirm Phoenix’s second goal in the first period. Radim Vrbata was hauled down by a Penguin as he drove with the puck to the net, but just before he slammed into Marc-Andre Fleury and knocked the net from its moorings, he was able to slide a shot under the Penguins netminder.
• Classy move by the Phoenix organization, as they played a video tribute to Zbynek Michalek at the second television timeout of the first period. Michalek spent the past five seasons in Phoenix. There were dozens of Coyotes fans sporting ‘Michalek’ Phoenix jerseys, and even a couple who donned Pittsburgh versions as well.