The surging Pittsburgh Penguins won their 3rd straight game in a road shootout win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. The win, Pittsburgh’s 6th in their last 7 games, came off the stick of rookie defenseman Kris Letang who scored the deciding goal in the 4th round of the shootout. Playing their 5th game in just 7-nights, the Penguins have finally found the groove that they have been searching for. After an inconsistent and slow start to the season, the Penguins suddenly find themselves just 2-points behind the Atlantic Division leading Flyers. However, it is crowded at the top of the Atlantic with 4-teams (Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Penguins) just 2-points apart with roughly a third of the season complete. Of those teams, the Penguins have scored the most goals at 84. They have also given up the most goals at 79.
The Penguins came out on fire in the first period, outshooting the Flames 14-8, but missed on a power play opportunity and gave up a late goal to leave the period down by a goal. Early in the period, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury fell akwardly and caught his right foot underneath his body, injuring his ankle. At the next stoppage of play, Fleury limped off the ice and left the game, being replaced by Dany Sabourin in net. No further information was available about the extent of Fleury’s injury, but it was reported that he was given crutches off ice. With just 28 seconds left in the period, Jarome Iginla picked up his 15th goal of the season at even strength, with assists by Alex Tanguay and Dion Phaneuf, to put the Flames ahead by a score of 1-0.
In the 2nd period, Evgeni Malkin scored his 11th of the season on the power-play at 13:54 to tie it at 1-1. With Flames’ Matthew Lombardi in the box for slashing, Malkin walked the puck off the sideboards and threw a wrister high stick side past Miikka Kiprusoff. Petr Sykora and Sergei Gonchar were credited with the assists. But Calgary regained the lead at 16:23 on a power play goal by Jarome Iginla, his second of the night, while Jordan Staal sat for a tripping call. Sabourin was beaten as Iginla took a quick cross ice pass from Kristian Huselius and buried it into the gaping net. Daymond Langkow was also credicted with an assist. The Flames outshot the Penguins 12-9 in the 2nd, and converted on 1 of their 2 power play opportunities. The Penguins were 1 for 3 on the man advantage in the 2nd.
In the 3rd, the Penguins benefitted from an outstanding shorthanded goal by Ryan Malone who chipped the puck past two Flames’ players and then drove in on net and beat Miikka Kiprusoff to tie the game 2-2. Malone’s goal was unassisted, and unanswered to force the overtime. The Penguins outshot the Flames 8-6 in the 3rd, and again 4-2 in the 5-minute overtime period. Both teams were 0 for 1 on the power play in the 3rd.
Remaining tied after the overtime frame, the game went to a shootout. Both goaltenders gave up a goal to the first two skaters in the shootout, with Petr Sykora and Kristian Huselius scoring. After that, however, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Tanguay and Matthew Lombardi were all stopped by Kiprusoff and Sabourin. In the 4th round of the shootoff, and with the game on his stick, Kris Letang skated in and faked right to freeze the goalie, and then shifted left and put the puck past Kiprusoff on his backhand. “If I make the first move and he goes on his knee, I can go on my backhand and put the puck high and that’s what I did,” Letang said. Letang was mobbed by his teammates after the goal, with plenty of congratulatory face washes thrown his way.
The win will surely keep the new found momentum going in Pittsburgh. “3-games in 4-nights, coming out here playing back-to-back against two hard-nosed hockey teams, two physical games, it’s a great test for our team and we should be proud of that for sure,” said Crosby. ”To come out of here with four points is big for us.”
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The Penguins continue their road trip on Saturday night in Vancouver against the Canucks.