NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – With the snap of his blade, defenseman Kris Letang
snapped a decade-long, six-game losing streak for the Penguins in the Music City.
Letang’s wrist shot at the 3:49 mark of overtime sailed over the shoulder of netminder Pekka Rinne to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 victory in an intense, playoff-type game.
“I had a great screen and tried to put it on the net,” Letang said. “I think it went through his body. I was just putting the puck on the net.”
drove wide and dropped the puck to me,” captain Sidney Crosby
said of the play. “’Tanger’ did a great job getting up into the play. I just found him wide. I don’t know where the shot went, but he got a lot on it. It was a great shot.”
The Penguins had to overcome 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits just to force the extra frame. The heroics of big-gamers Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
fueled the Penguins’ comeback and set the stage for Letang’s heroics.
“We felt like we were getting some good chances and just had to stick with things,” Crosby said. “’Geno’ was flying in the third and stealing pucks, creating things. When he does that, he’s tough to handle.”
Crosby finished with two goals and an assist, while Malkin chipped in a goal and an assist. The two hooked up in the third period to score Pittsburgh’s third tally to make it a 3-3 contest with 7:04 left in regulation.
Malkin started the play by battling for a loose puck and getting a shot on goal from the slot. Rinne kicked out a rebound right to Crosby, who buried the shot to even the score.
“They got the first goal right in the beginning, got the lead in the second, got the lead in the third; our guys kept responding,” head coach Dan Byslma said. “The way Geno and Sid, their determination to get that (third) goal and again in the overtime, it was an impressive hockey game in a lot of areas.”
The Penguins last won in Nashville Feb. 13, 1999 – the inaugural season for the Predators. Pittsburgh also triumphed in overtime (3-2) in that game. BIG SAVE
Pittsburgh came inches from losing to Nashville in the overtime frame, but one Penguin came up with a game-saving stop – and it was not goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
The Predators J.P. Dumont riffled a shot on net that went off the chest of Fleury, flew over his head and died in the blue paint. The rubber lay inches from the goal line with Nashville players advancing quickly.
Forward Pascal Dupuis
, who was in deep on the play, reached back with his stick and desperately swatted the puck out of danger.
“I had no clue where it was,” Fleury said. “It hit my shoulder and I thought it might be stuck there. Then the crowd was yelling. I turned around and saw Dupuis. I owe him.”
“The puck kind of stalled a little bit,” Crosby said. “We talk about stopping at the net, making sure you stop on rebounds. You have to backcheck right to the net. If (Dupuis) would have turned and went to the corner, we wouldn’t be sitting here with the win. He made a game-saving play there for sure.” FALSE ALARM
The Penguins are already missing their two top-shutdown defensemen with Brooks Orpik
(groin strain) and Zbynek Michalek
(upper-body) out of the lineup.
The team had another scare when Letang left the game in the first period after getting hit in the leg with a shot.
Luckily, the shot only numbed his leg. Letang returned towards the end of the period and was able to finish the game.
“I got a shot off the foot and my whole leg went numb,” he said. “There really wasn’t nothing I could do about it except wait.”RELATED ARTICLE: Fleury Rebounds To Spark Victory Over Predators
>>RELATED ARTICLE: Aftermath: Penguins 4, Predators 3 OT