PHOENIX – The Pittsburgh Penguins concluded a tough three weeks of travel on Saturday night by coming from behind on two separate occasions, the first time from a 2-0 hole, and later a 3-2 deficit, to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes in a shootout, 4-3.
Pittsburgh’s victory finished off a stretch which saw the team play seven of eight games away from CONSOL Energy Center in an 18-day stretch that included games in three different time zones and several thousands of miles of brutal travel.
Despite the heavy workload, and several injuries along the way, the Penguins managed to post a 3-4-1 record, including a 2-2 mark on this current four-game road swing which featured victories in Carolina (3-0; Oct. 30) and Phoenix, and losses to Dallas (5-2; Nov. 3) and Anaheim (3-2; Nov. 5).
On Saturday night, the Penguins fell behind, 2-0, for the third straight game, but unlike the previous two in Dallas and Anaheim, they were able to storm all the way back and complete their comeback mission. The win was especially satisfying considering the Penguins fell just short of making a similar comeback less than 24 hours earlier.
“It shows a lot of character to stick with it,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “We have been on the road for a while – for a couple weeks here. It would have been easy to pack it in after a period of falling behind. Guys stuck with it and competed. We did a lot of good things (on Friday), built off of that (against the Coyotes) and deserved to get the two points.”
“Getting down (on Friday) and during this game is not good,” head coach Dan Bylsma added. “The resolve of our team getting to our game and sticking together was very good to see in a tough situation. We came back when got down 3-2 right after the penalty kill. I love what I saw from our guys – the way we kept playing and kept focused.”
Center Mark Letestu, who scored the game-deciding goal in the shootout, felt one of the keys to Saturday’s victory was beginning the comeback a little earlier in the game.
“(On Friday) night we came up a little bit short, but (on Saturday) we got charging a little bit earlier and fortunately tied up the game late (in the second period) on a nice goal by (Chris) Kunitz to give ourselves a chance to get the two points,” Letestu said.
Leading the way for the Penguins, both with their actions and on the score sheet, were Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
. The two superstars talled 3:02 minutes apart early in the second period to erase the 2-0 Phoenix lead.
“We were on the puck and creating things, but so was everyone else,” said Crosby, who finished with a goal and an assist for his second straight multiple point night. “We try to create just like everyone else, but we definitely wanted to make sure that we did our part. Everyone was accountable and responsible.”RELATED ARTICLE: Choice Of Letestu Pays Off With Shootout Victory
>>RELATED ARTICLE: Aftermath: Penguins 4, Coyotes 3 SO
“I think the way they play reflects the energy on the bench,” Pascal Dupuis
said. “These guys play well, and at the same time I think they also feed off of the positive energy we have. They give us some and we give them some.”
Pittsburgh also fed off the energy of a goaltending change, as Bylsma turned to Brent Johnson
following the second Phoenix goal. Johnson was a brick wall once again, stopping 22 of 23 shots in relief, and then denying all three shootout attempts to improve to 6-1-1 on the season.
Johnson knew he had to be perfect with his team already down by two goals when he entered. He made several great saves, including a toe save on Radim Vrbata one minute into overtime, to give his stars a chance to win it late.
“It’s a different mindset when you come in down,” Johnson said. “All you want to do is make that next save and rally the guys and get them going.”