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Second-Period Outburst Allows Penguins to Overcome Deficit

by Caitlin Kasunich / Pittsburgh Penguins
Trailing by two goals, the Penguins were able to turn on their game and make a huge comeback in the second period with four impressive goals, including a hat trick by Sidney Crosby, to pull out a 5-4 victory.

“They have a good team, which put us in a tight spot,” Marc-Andre Fleury said. “It was nice to see that nobody quit, and everybody played hard. Those two guys got big goals for us.”

“We haven’t had one of those comeback wins in a while, and it’s been difficult to do that, especially against a team like that,” said Staal, who also scored in the second frame. “They’re a great team and obviously high up in the standings. We knew it was a big game and that we had to come back.”

Crosby scored his 35th goal of the season on the Penguins power play at 10:53 after receiving a pass from Alex Goligoski at the center point. Goligoski faked a slap shot before setting Crosby up for a one-timer at the bottom of the far circle to make it a 3-2 game and jumpstart the comeback.

“I think the power-play goal was probably a big part of us really getting back into the game,” Bylsma said. “We get the one on the power play there, and they came with pressure, and we had to make three or four or five plays to break the pressure.

“Goligoski makes a big play, and Ryan Miller comes out to take the shot. He pump-fakes and makes the pass. It’s a tough angle to score a goal from. It was a great goal by Sidney and a great play from Goligoski, as well.”

The Penguins captain continued on his scoring mission after Staal’s goal by picking up two more markers during four-on-four play. Crosby scored an unassisted goal at 17:30 off Miller’s misuse of the puck.

But his 37th goal and third hat trick of the season came when Crosby skated down across the blue line by the far boards and snapped the puck past Miller at 18:55.      

“He always has a quick shot,” Staal said. “It’s just a matter of mentally shooting more, and obviously he has been working hard on it every day in practice. You see him out there shooting. He’s a hard worker. When he wants to do something right, he’ll do it.”

Letestu Scores First Goal

After taking a quick pass from Tyler Kennedy, recent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call-up Mark Letestu scored his first NHL goal and obtained his first NHL point within the first 47 seconds of the first period.

“I can’t wipe the smile off my face,” Letestu said. “It’s a pretty special moment for me. To actually contribute to an NHL game feels pretty good. You get pretty amped up after something like that, but I just try to stay within myself and play a solid game.”

The 24-year-old forward said that he attributes much of his success in Monday’s game to feeling more confident with his play at the NHL level in recent games.

“With more games comes more confidence and a little bit of experience,” he said. “I’m starting to get used to the speed and used to some of my teammates. The game’s coming a little bit easier to me. As the games go on here, hopefully the confidence keeps going up.”

Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was also impressed with Letestu’s play against the Sabres Monday night.

“He is great positionally,” he said. “We just talked about it – he has gained a step in his first couple steps as a pro, but he has gained an additional step with how he plays the game smart-wise. He is in the right spot, he knows the game and he knows what we are trying to do. He is winning puck battles as well – in the D-zone, in the faceoff circle and he scored his first goal tonight.”

After his teammates congratulated him on the bench, Letestu said that he will always remember what it felt like to score his first goal in the NHL.

“When I was skating down the ice, I was just putting my head down and going as far as I could to that back post,” Letestu said.  “Tyler made a pretty good play and had an empty net. I celebrated pretty hard. I screamed pretty loud and had to catch my breath after. It was a pretty special moment. It took a long time to get to this point, so I’m pretty happy with myself.”    

Solving Ryan Miller

The Penguins have scored eight goals in two games against Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, making them one of the hottest teams to play against the Sabres this season. Miller was pulled in the Dec. 29 game after Pittsburgh scored three goals in 1:28 of the second period.

“I think we made some good plays,” Sidney Crosby said. “We had some odd-man rushes. We got a good bounce there off a skate and he wasn’t able to get back in the net. If you look at the goals you really can’t fault him on a lot of them.

“There were some really nice plays there. I don’t think we tried to do anything different. We always try to get traffic, we always try to get second chances and that is always tough for anybody.”

“It’s just the way we play – the way we go to the net and get quick shots,” Staal agreed.

Bylsma also discussed how the team has had success against Miller, who will likely be the starting netminder for the U.S. Olympic team.

“He made some good saves,” Bylsma said. “We watch him, and we know he is a really good goalie – one of the best in the league and a big part of their team. We have been fortunate enough to get pucks there, get people there and make it difficult for him.”

Staal Ends Scoring Slump

Penguins forward Jordan Staal ended his 12-game scoring slump after notching his 14th goal of the season during the team’s win against the Buffalo Sabres, 5-4, Monday night.

Malkin picked up his second assist of the game after passing the puck to Staal in the slot. Staal was waiting at the left side of the far circle. Staal then quickly snapped the puck through the legs of Miller at 14:06.

“It’s been a while obviously,” Staal said. “Last night, I felt good about my game, and I felt like I was going in the right direction. It’s nice to get rewarded tonight.”

The last time that Staal scored this season was against the Atlanta Thrashers on Jan. 5. Staal scored two goals against the Thrashers and earned one assist.

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