For the fourth time in the last 12 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins were at the finish line but couldn’t hold a late lead. The Penguins again (again, again, again) gave up a goal when their opponent pulled the goalie in the final minutes as Carolina Hurricanes forward Justin Williams chipped a juicy rebound past Penguins goalie Matt Murray which erased the potential game-winning goal from Penguins defenseman Kris Letang in the waning minutes. Carolina won in a shootout, 3-2.
The Carolina win pulled them within two points of the Penguins for third place in the Metro Division. Carolina has two games in hand. The Penguins loser point kept them six points ahead of Montreal for the final playoff berth.
Williams (22) was the beneficiary of Murray’s flub on the fluttering shot. The Penguins goalie had a chance to catch the original shot cleanly but failed to snare it.
“This one is not lack of execution. It was a bounce in their favor,” said Letang.
The Penguins defensemen couldn’t avoid the penalty box in the final minutes of regulation or overtime. Jack Johnson took a bad roughing penalty which covered the final two minutes and the first 16 seconds of overtime. Then Letang took a slashing penalty which covered the final two minutes of overtime. Letang was also given a 10-minute misconduct for a few words and firing the puck down the ice after the whistle blew.
“I was really surprised,” Letang understated.
Johnson made good by blocking an overtime shot by Carolina forward Sebastian Aho which was headed into a yawning cage.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang missed the last 11 games due to an upper-body injury. Tuesday morning head coach Mike Sullivan called him an impact player, and Letang immediately showed why. In the waning minutes of the third period, the Penguins transitioned past the rushing Carolina attack for a three-on-one. Letang (16) was the last in line and roofed the wrist shot for what appeared to be the-game winner.
It took until the third period before either team earned a power play but even a man advantage for the Penguins couldn’t add more offense.
Offense finally visited midway through the second period. Midway through the period, Brock McGinn was the late trailer in the slot and evaded coverage. McGinn (9) snapped it past Penguins goalie Matt Murray from the left wing circle.
But 38 seconds later, the Penguins Batman and Robin tied the game. Sidney Crosby raced the puck along the right wing and threaded a pass through defenders to his Robin, Jake Guentzel (37) who lit the lamp from the high slot.
Much like the first period, the second period statistics were nearly perfectly even, too.
The first period was a case study in the mirror technique. Each team smothered the other, each team played along the wall with occasional slips to the scoring zone. Each team had 11 shots. According to NaturalStatTrick.com, Carolina had four scoring chances and the Penguins three.
The Penguins chances were mostly from Nick Bjugstad’s stick. The big 6-foot-6 center worked well with linemates to push the puck forward along the walls. Bjugstad hit the post with a wrist shot from the circle. And Nino Niederreiter hit a post from Carolina.
Both teams skated with the other and there was precious little advantage.
–More from the Penguins locker room coming up—