Who Saw This Coming? Penguins Win, 2-1, in OT
The Pittsburgh Penguins have won 25 games this season.
They’ll probably win at least another dozen or so before its over.
But it’s unlikely they’ll have another victory as unlikely as the 2-1 decision they earned in overtime against Colorado at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night.
The Avalanche dominated the first two periods, controlling play until the Penguins got their game in synch for final 20 minutes of regulation.
“I thought Colorado was the better team in the first half of the game,” Mike Sullivan said. “For sure.”
The Penguins (25-16-9) negated the Avalanche’s 1-0 lead with a lucky-bounce goal late in regulation, and Kris Letang got the game-winner at 3:36 of the extra period.
He scored from inside the left circle just 15 seconds after the Penguins finished killing an offensive-zone tripping minor against Evgeni Malkin.
That goal was his 32nd career overtime point, most ever by an NHL defenseman.
Letang had come within a few millimeters of ending the game about a half-minute into overtime, when his shot from the right side of the crease went mostly — but not entirely — across the goal line.
The victory lifted the Penguins to within one point of the fourth-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. They have three games-in-hand on Washington.
Colorado recorded the first eight shots of the game — a total that doesn’t include the one Nathan MacKinnon put off the goalpost in the middle of the opening period — before Jason Zucker got one on Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz at 11:16.
The Penguins did regain a bit of their offensive equilibrium as the period progressed, and actually had a few quality scoring chances. They missed the net several times and Francouz made a nice stop on Jake Guentzel from the slot 10.5 seconds before the intermission.
Casey DeSmith, making his fourth consecutive start while Tristan Jarry recovers from an unspecified injury, kept the Penguins in the game during those 20 minutes, turning aside all 13 shots he faced.
That proved to be a portent, as DeSmith stopped all but one of the 42 shots the Avalanche threw at him.
Colorado dominated the shots on goal during the first half of the second period, as well, but the Penguins got the first power play of the game at 9:11, when Avs winger Artturi Lehkonen was called for slashing.
That man-advantage ended when Guentzel went off for hooking at 10:09, and Colorado went in front before its subsequent chance with the extra man even began.
The teams were playing four-on-four when MacKinnon carried the puck around the Penguins’ net and curled through the left circle before throwing a shot over DeSmith’s glove from above the left hash at 10:21.
Sidney Crosby was penalized for tripping at 14:05 — the Penguins’ second offensive-zone infraction of the period — but the Penguins got through the following two minutes unscathed and prevented Colorado from padding its lead during the balance of the period.
The Penguins played their best hockey of the game during the third period, and were rewarded with a tying goal at 16:22.
Malkin had the puck behind the Colorado goal line before tossing it into the crease, where it bounced off Bryan Rust’s skate and Francouz’s pads before skidding into the net to force overtime.
Zucker got the second assist on that goal, Rust’s 12th.
After the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins called off the practice scheduled for UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex Wednesday at noon.