It was more of a critique than criticism. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang stopped short of venturing into comments which could make his paycheck a little smaller, but he made his point nonetheless.
In the final minutes of overtime Tuesday night as the Penguins lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout, Letang chased down Carolina forward Sebastian Aho who had cherry-picked for a potentially game-winning breakaway.
It didn’t take much, and Letang was given two minutes for slashing. Even on TV replays, the slash was very quick and difficult to see.
Letang scoffed when asked about the call.
“Yeah, I think I gave him a tap on the ass. I literally reached and almost didn’t touch him,” Letang said. “I don’t know why (referee Tim Peel) called that.”
The penalty took away the Penguins chance to win the game in overtime as they were shorthanded for the final two minutes.
“I don’t know. I was really, really surprised,” he said.
Peel also assessed Letang a 10-minute misconduct penalty when Letang fired the puck across the ice after the call. Letang was also a little brusque in the locker room afterward, too. When asked how the call affected the game, he shot back.
“There was no result on the penalty. What do you mean? There was no goal,” he asked before giving a longer answer. “Obviously, I’m in the box instead of being out there on the three-on-three situation. It has an impact obviously. Guys stepped up and made plays on it.”
The Penguins survived the OT period against Carolina, which began the extra period on the power play for the final 16 seconds of Jack Johnson’s roughing penalty and ended the frame with a full two-minute power play.
“It was kind of like hit or miss. At one point, they were letting a lot of stuff go but at one point they were calling little stuff. So you’re kind of like…(confused),” Letang said. “You didn’t know what kind of calls they were going to make. It is what it is.”
Letang returned to the Penguins lineup after missing the last 11 games. He played nearly 27 minutes and also scored what would have been the game-winning goal late in the third period. However, the Penguins again allowed an opponent to score a goal with an extra attacker in the final two minutes. That was the fourth time in their last 12 games in which the Penguins yielded a game-tying goal in a 6v5 situation.
They lead Carolina by just two points for third place in the Metro Division, but Carolina has two games in hand. The Penguins lead over Montreal slipped to six points as Montreal beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1, Tuesday night. The Penguins magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 13 points. Any combination of the Penguins gaining 13 points or Montreal losing points will guarantee the Penguins a playoff spot.