The Pittsburgh Penguins fired 44 shots towards New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner, scored in the final two minutes of the game to force overtime and went for the kill. However, the Penguins aggression was quickly turned against them after Penguins defenseman Kris Letang turned the puck over at the New York blue line.
And in a flash, one of the Penguins biggest problems reared its ugly head.
Turnovers at either blue line sunk the Penguins faster than an iceberg (not THE Iceberg) all season. And there it was again, Wednesday night. Letang barreled into the New York zone; one against many.
“I just lost control when I tried to pull up, so….,” Letang trailed off.
As if the game-winning goal wasn’t enough, Letang knows it came off his mistake.
“I was trying to put myself in a shot position but when I pulled it back, I lost it, so…,” he again trailed off with a verbal shrug.
After weathering the New York surge in the first 30 minutes, the Penguins evened the game. And evened it again. And again. Three times, New York took the lead, and three times the Penguins tied the game. The Penguins momentum and level of pushback grew as the game got longer, but in overtime, the Penguins loaded onto the fire wagon.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was not thrilled with the Penguins go-for-broke attitude in overtime, either
“You gotta make good decisions with the puck. If we had numbers and an opportunity for a potential scoring chance, I think that is a calculated risk,” Sullivan said. “I’m not sure we had the awareness we needed in that situation.”
No, it wasn’t a calculated risk. It was a hope is a strategy type play which has haunted the Penguins all season. The turnover resulted in a two-on-one break and New York forward Josh Bailey became the third Islander in the zone when beat the changing Penguins into the offensive ice.
Bailey zipped the puck into the yawning cage after Letang knocked New York forward Mathew Barzal into the Penguins net and subsequently onto Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
Letang had four turnovers Wednesday night, which was an uncharacteristic bad game for the defenseman which had garnered Norris Trophy talk until late season injuries derailed his candidacy. Otherwise, Letang was easily the Penguins best defenseman this season and scored 56 points (16g, 40a) in just 65 games.
He had the type of bounce-back season the Penguins hoped he would after suffering through much of 2017-18 limited by recovery from neck surgery.
Letang’s voice said it all. “So…”
So, everyone knows it was a mistake including Letang and the kind of unfortunate play which puts a team behind. And the kind of play great players work hard to overcome and always do.
Letang has been too good this season to be bogged down now.