The Pittsburgh Penguins survived a special teams battle in the first period and a gritty, relentless Arizona Coyotes team at even strength. Phil Kessel deflected Sidney Crosby’s shot in overtime as the Penguins snapped their two-game losing streak by beating Arizona 3-2 in overtime at the Gilla River Arena.
Kessel’s game-winning goal, as most goals in the game, was on the power play. Moments after Kessel exerted maximum effort on a backcheck to deny Derek Stepan a shorthanded scoring chance, Kessel (19) went to the net and neatly deflected Crosby’s point-blast.
It was no small irony the game was decided on the power play.
The first period was a special teams battle royal which got under the collar of the Penguins and especially goalie Matt Murray. In the middle of the first period after Arizona was awarded its third straight power play via a Brian Dumoulin hooking penalty, Murray voiced his displeasure to referee Tim Peel. And kept voicing it. Murray was given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor, and the Penguins had to kill a 5-on-3.
“I felt the need to say something to stand up for myself,” said Murray who had been bumped twice without a call. “I just crossed the line, I feel bad. I hurt our team and I apologized to everybody for that.”
Murray also admitted to apologizing to referee Tim Peel.
The teams played just 11:04 at even strength in the first 20 minutes but Murray’s best apology were a few sparkling saves on the Arizona power plays throughout the first period.
One minute into the Arizona two-man-advantage, they gave one penalty back for a 4-on-3 advantage. With nearly a desert of space, Clayton Keller (10) broke the scoreless tie when he stepped into a hard slapshot from the right wing circle.
“(Murray) was fired up and we wanted to kill that penalty for him,” lamented Derick Brassard who perhaps had his best game as a Penguin.
When the penalties subsided in the second period, the Penguins surged though their first goal was a power-play goal. Juuso Riikola (2) powered a slapshot through traffic and goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Brassard set up Riikola with a steal behind the Arizona net to maintain possession.
Just 40 seconds later, the Penguins flexed their muscle. Jake Guentzel cut across the slot and was initially robbed by Kuemper but Guentzel (24) chipped his rebound into the tiniest of angles. The Penguins suddenly led 2-1.
If Murray was hot in the first period, he was ice-cold in the second. Arizona had just four shots in the second period.
Arizona scored twice in the third period, but only the second goal was legit. Oliver Ekman-Larsson unintentionally kicked Murray’s skates when fell the goalie before Richard Panik chipped the puck into the net. The Penguins executed a successful coach’s challenge.
Arizona tied the game with five minutes remaining. Arizona center Derek Stepan (9) won the physical battle near the crease for a greasy rebound goal.
The teams ended regulation each with 30 shots and each goaltender with 28 saves. Murray finished with 30 saves and Kuemper stopped 32 shots after the Penguins blitzed him in overtime.
The Penguins win kept pace with the Metro Division, where the top four teams including the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders are separated by only two points. The Penguins remain in fourth place, and in the second Eastern Conference wild card, four points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres.