Mark Letestu continued his strong play in training camp with a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Penguins’ 4-1 win at CONSOL Energy Center Tuesday night.
Letestu, who has been one of the more impressive players during the preseason, buried a goal at the 11:13 mark of the third period to add to his bid for a spot in the Penguins’ opening day lineup.
“I worked hard this summer just to have this camp like this,” Letestu said. “The praise is
nice, but it’s only as good as your last game. I got a little bit of work left to do in the preseason, but so far so good.”
But even with his inspiring performance over the first 10 days of camp, Letestu isn’t writing his name in the Penguins’ lineup just yet.
“I don’t think 10 games into the season that I feel comfortable,” he said. “That’s
just the way camp sets up and the way the contracts are. I just need to keep playing the way I have been and hopefully force somebody to keep me here.”
Letestu, who made his NHL debut with the Penguins last season, appearing in 10 games and four postseason games, is a natural center, but has the ability to play the wing position – something that could play in his favor.
“I think versatility is something that’s key,” he said. “Just to be able to stay in the lineup night to night and to be able to play to win in different roles, maybe at center, hopefully it gives them some options and maybe keep me here a little longer.”JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Goaltender Brent Johnson
gave a solid 60-minute performance between the pipes for the Penguins. He turned aside 21 shots in the game, but none was more impressive than his breakaway stop on Chicago superstar Patrick Kane.
A Penguins defenseman lost the puck in his own zone, springing Kane one-on-one with the 6-foot-3 netminder. Kane dazzled with the puck, but Johnson reached out with his glove to deny the goal.
“Max Talbot came back to the bench and said that’s why we have a goalie,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “So we made a mistake and obviously not to the player you want, and Brent Johnson
came up big for us. He made a huge save, and a goaltender has to do that at certain times through the year. That’s certainly was what we needed at that time. If it was a regular season game we would be talking about that save in terms of keeping the game where we want it to be.”
Johnson doesn’t expect to play much the rest of the preseason, but then again, that is the life of a backup goaltender.
“I just have to be ready and be the goaltender assistant,” Johnson joked. “When I get the chance just play the way I can play.”CRASH AND BURN
The Penguins relentlessly crashed the net all night, and the result were two beautiful bounces that went in the team’s favor.
Talbot carried the puck down the near side on a three-on-two in the third period. He threw the puck towards the net that Nick Johnson re-directed. The puck hit off the stick of defenseman Brent Seabrook and glided over the goal line to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead.
Pittsburgh scored on a very similar play just minutes later to make it a 4-1 game. Chris Kunitz
threw a backhand shot towards the goal. The rubber bounced off goaltender Hannu Toivonen. Letestu sprinted in to snap a shot that went off of Seabrook’s body and trickled into the goal.
“Kunitz made a nice play,” Letestu said. “He threw it up off his shoulder there and
crashed the net. I didn’t get a lot on the puck, but just enough to get
over the line.”
“It happens to any goalie,” Johnson said of the fluke plays. “You never like to see it happen against yourself but when it happens for your team, you’re quite happy.”RELATED ARTICLE: Strong Home Preseason Record Helps Penguins Forge An Identity