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Penguins Survive LA Kings 4-3 in OT; Kessel Game Winner



Pittsburgh Penguins trade potentials Matt Murray

PITTSBURGH — For the second consecutive game, the Pittsburgh Penguins squandered a two-goal lead. Forgetful defensive zone coverage and a phantom hooking call yielded a couple of LA Kings goals which forced overtime. But Phil Kessel erased a few mistakes with a dirty power-play goal in overtime and the Penguins beat the LA Kings, 4-3 at PPG Paints Arena.

The soft hooking call in the third period against Garrett Wilson gave the Kings a power play, which they didn’t waste. With just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Alex Iafallo’s long one-timer from the back of the right-wing circle slipped through Penguins goalie Matt Murray for a tie game, 3-3. After a half dozen hard saves by Murray, it was one he would probably like to have back.

Tanner Pearson had no goals in 17 games this season with the LA Kings. Since his Nov. 14 trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pearson has four markers including an overpowering effort to strip All-Star defenseman Drew Doughty and quickly snap the puck past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

Bryan Rust continued his blitzkrieg of the stat sheet, too.

The Penguins didn’t have a shorthanded goal until Friday. Now they have two in their last two games. Midway through the first period, Rust and Matt Cullen outscored the LA power play. After Rust forced Jonathan Quick to make a hard save on a top-shelf wrist shot, Rust retrieved the puck for Cullen (3) who cut to the slot and ripped it past Quick for the Penguins first goal.

Later in the first period, Rust continued his Sidney Crosby impersonation. With two quick passes, the Penguins sprung Crosby and Rust on a two-on-one through the heart of the Kings soft 1-2-2 neutral zone scheme. Crosby slid the pass to Rust (5) who roofed it from the right wing circle over Quick in the splits and the Penguins had a two-goal lead.

Rust has five goals in his last seven games.

“We’re playing more as a unit, and playing harder for each other,” Rust said. “And I think if we do that, and keep getting our games better, I think things are going in the right direction.”

LA winger Nikita Scherbak had a first-period goal overturned when a video challenge easily determined the Kings were offside.

Matt Murray made a good return to the Penguins net, though the Penguins forced him to work far harder than he should have. The offensively challenged Kings victimized the Penguins patchwork defense and some scrambly zone coverage for 15 shots in the first period. Murray made a trio of hard saves including a glove save on Austin Wagner and a slick deflection by Tyler Toffoli. Murray also stoned Toffoli on an overtime breakaway.

Early in the second period, the Penguins defensive coverage broke down. Badly. Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin managed to beat most of the Penguins, including Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Brian Dumoulin to the offensive zone. It became a delayed three-on-two and Anze Kopitar’s cross-ice pass gave the uncovered Muzzin (6) a one-timer into a yawning cage.

At the halfway point of the third period, Malkin and Kessel turned the puck over at the Penguins blue line. The resulting sequence culminated after Malkin missed a loose puck and Matt Luff (7) snapped it past Murray to cut the LA deficit to 3-2.

Murray made several saves in overtime to earn the victory.

“I had a blast,” Murray said.