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DeSmith Saves Penguins (and Everything Else) in 3-1 Win



SAN JOSE, Calif. — Casey DeSmith had perhaps his worst game of the season during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 6-0 defeat in Los Angeles Saturday night.

He gave up three goals on 15 shots and, just 1:58 into the second period, took a seat at the far end of the bench.

Not, however, before making a brief trip down the runway leading from the bench to the locker room, taking out his frustration on his stick.

But whatever dents the Kings game put in his confidence were gone by Tuesday night, as DeSmith rebounded with an exceptional showing, turning aside 38 of 39 shots during the Penguins’ 3-1 victory over San Jose at the SAP Center.

“I was really happy to get the call tonight,” DeSmith said. “And even happier that I could contribute to a good win, an important want.”

He didn’t just contribute to this victory; he did more to make it possible than anyone else on the team.

“He made some big saves for us,” Mike Sullivan said. “Real solid in there. I thought he looked confident in there, right from the drop of the puck.”

He actually stopped the first 37 San Jose shots, but lost his shutout at 15:57 of the third period, when Timo Meier charged down the left wing and drove to the net before putting a shot between DeSmith’s legs.

“I wish I could have that one back, for sure,” he said. “But two points is good enough for me.”

DeSmith’s performance overshadowed a particularly strong one by Sidney Crosby, who had been ejected from the Kings game midway through the third period. He assisted on all three Penguins goals and was a force all over the ice.

“He had a big game for us,” Sullivan said. “I think he recognizes the importance of a response game after a humbling loss in L.A. He always seems to know when he needs to elevate his game.”

He also noted that there is ample room for improvement in the Penguins’ defensive work.

“The shot clock is probably an indication of that,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes, the shot clock can be deceiving, but what it is an indication of is where the game might be being played. … I think we can do a better job with just our five-man commitment to defense, in all three zones.”

Despite their failings, the Penguins (27-17-9) hurdled Washington and moved back into fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Penguins made a late lineup change, replacing fourth-line winger Ryan Poehling with Drew O’Connor after warmups. Sullivan said Poehling is dealing with a “nagging upper-body injury” and decided after warmups that he couldn’t play.

Crosby started the game with an obvious urgency, and three minutes into the opening period, flattened Sharks forward Michael Eyssimont with a big hit in the neutral zone.

Less than three minutes later, Rickard Rakell gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead, when he kicked a loose puck onto his stick with his left skate before flipping in a shot from inside the right circle at 5:52.

Jeff Petry and Crosby got assists on the goal, Rakell’s 19th.

Rakell appeared to knock San Jose goalie Aaron Dell off-balance as he skated past the front of the net a second or so before scoring, but Sharks coach David Quinn opted against challenging for goaltender interference.

The Penguins had a chance to increase their lead when former teammate Nick Bonino was called for hooking at 12:42, but they failed to generate any meaningful pressure during those two minutes.

Although they had a 1-0 advantage at the first intermission, the Penguins’ defensive game was leaky for much of that period. DeSmith and Dell both made a few quality saves to keep the score as low as it was.

Dell came up with another of those about two minutes into the second period, when he denied Jason Zucker on a turning shot from close range.

San Jose was shorthanded for the second time when Logan Couture was sent off for holding at 3:51, but the Penguins again were unable to capitalize on having the extra man.

Crosby, who has points in 11 of the past 12 games, picked up his second assist of the game at 11:33 of the second.

He carried the puck from right to left behind the San Jose net, then slid a backhand pass to Jake Guentzel, who was unchecked near the right post and banked a shot off Dell’s left skate and into the net.

Rakell got the second assist.

Guentzel had a chance to put the game away when he got a breakaway with 2:05 left in regulation, but Dell stopped his backhander.

He got a measure of redemption with 37.9 seconds left, however, hitting an empty net to seal the victory. Crosby and Rakell got the assists.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a travel day Wednesday, then practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex Thursday before traveling to Long Island to complete their four-game road trip Friday against the New York Islanders.