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Penguins Room: Confidence Key in Comeback, Letang Says



Kris Letang

The Pittsburgh Penguins allowed the first four goals of the game Tuesday night, and looked every bit as bad as that stat suggests.

But as poorly as they were playing — and it would have strained a thesaurus to come up with an adequate description — Kris Letang said his teammates never gave up on the idea that they were capable of coming back.

Which they did, pulling out a 5-4 overtime victory against Columbus at PPG Paints Arena.

Improbable as the win was, considering how the Penguins started, it likely would have been flat-out impossible earlier this season, when they seemed to consistently be finding ways to lose close games.

“It’s more of a confidence thing right now,” Letang said. “There was a stretch when we felt like, if the game was 2-1, we felt kind of defeated and it was tough to come back in games. Right now, a lot of guys are playing with confidence and they know they can come back and stay in the game.”

The Blue Jackets have some good young talent, but are at the bottom of the overall standings, which might be part of the reason the Penguins felt they still had a chance, even when the play was tilted decidedly in Columbus’ favor.

“It was one of those games,” Letang said, “where, if you play the right way, you have a chance to come back.”

Casey DeSmith

Casey DeSmith was supposed to have the evening off.


Which is standard procedure for backup goaltenders in the NHL.

But when starter Tristan Jarry allowed four goals on 12 shots in the first 22-plus minutes of the game, Mike Sullivan decided to change goalies and sent in DeSmith.

He proceeded to stop all 15 shots he faced, including a sensational stop on Columbus winger Patrik Laine with about eight minutes to go in regulation.

Laine appeared to have a large expanse of net at which to shoot, but DeSmith was able to get his right pad on the puck, which then caromed harmlessly off the crossbar.

The Pittsburgh Penguins had rallied to tie the game, 4-4, with three goals in the first four minutes of the third, but Columbus would have reclaimed the lead and momentum if Laine — an exceptional goal-scorer — had gotten that puck into the net.

“Someone backhanded it to him and I just stuck a leg out,” DeSmith said. “I felt something hit my pad. I wasn’t sure if it was the puck or a stick, but I was fortunate to, I guess, get a piece of that one and keep it tied. Get it to overtime, and then the boys did the rest.”

Dmitry Kulikov

Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, acquired from Anaheim at the trade deadline last Friday, made his Pittsburgh Penguins debut Tuesday, and it’s a game he’s not likely to forget anytime soon.

“We didn’t get off to a good start,” he said. “We all know that. But I love that we found a way at the end of the game to get two points. A lot of heart and we keep playing, believing that we could come back in this game, and we did.”

The Penguins were outscored, 3-0, in the opening period and looked awful in the process, but Kulikov was adamant that he didn’t have any misgivings then about the situation into which he has been thrust by the trade.

“Not a chance,” he said. “I knew what this team is capable of and I believed we could come back.”

Kulikov finished with 15 minutes, three seconds of ice time, 107 seconds of it on the penalty-kill. He was credited with two shots and one hit.

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12 days ago

Good news the Pens win!

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
12 days ago

What a pleasant surprise. After one period, amid the “Fire Hextall” chants thugs looked dim. It only got worse when they yanked Jarry. Game, set…..match? Hold on, not yet. Then Lazarus rose from the dead and perhaps the season was saved. I have no crystal ball, but have to feel the third period and OT gave a glimpse of what this team can be. It’s been a long time since I could say I saw the worst game I can remember morph into one of the best. Not sure if Hextall will survive. Granlund was a scratch, Bonino was invisible,… Read more »

12 days ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

I’m sure those moves are enough to get us into the first round to be pummeled by Boston or Carolina

Last edited 12 days ago by Justin
Hugh Jassoul
Hugh Jassoul
12 days ago

At least Nyls finally got in a game. Absolutely 0 reason Heinen or Carter should be suiting up over him, or Puustinen, or Legare for that matter. Thought the kid played a great game, was noticeable all night. Probably not quite enough to force HCMS’s hand, but definitely a positive showing. I’m sure he’ll get traded for Dominik Simon and a washing machine in the off-season.

Mighty Quin
Mighty Quin
11 days ago

Strange what can happen when Crosby shoots da puck, isn’t it?