Letang Wins Shootout Again, Pens Sweep Western Canada

The Pittsburgh Penguins are now playing the way that they were expected to at the season’s outset.  They completed a franchise first sweep of western Canada on Saturday night by beating the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in their second consecutive overtime shootout win.  It took 6-rounds in the shootout for a decision, and the hero was once again rookie defensemen Kris Letang who undressed the nearly invincible Roberto Luongo for the win.  Letang was the OT shootout hero for the second game in a row. 

If there was any doubt that Dany Sabourin would be able to successfully backstop the Penguins as he fills in for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury, those doubts should be laid to rest.  Sabourin had a sensational game, giving up only 1 goal on 36-shots and thwarted a 3rd period onsalught by Vancouver in which the Penguins were outshot 13-4.  Sabourin kept the Penguins in the game to force the overtime frame, kept the Canucks off the scoresheet through 5-minutes of sudden death play, and then turned aside 5 0f 6-Canucks in the shootout.  Although not credited as a star of the game, Sabourin certainly gets our vote.  Performances like that will likely result in more playing time for Sabourin this season than originally expected.  “They told me about 20 games,” Sabourin said. “Obviously with the injury, I think I’ll probably finish with more games. You never know what can happen during a season.”

In the 1st period, it looked like the Penguins were going to bury the Canucks.  They came out flying and had Vancouver back on their heels as they overloaded the offensive zone.  Despite the tilt of the ice towards the Vancouver end, the Penguins came away from the 1st with just 1 goal thanks to the superb play of Vancover’s goaltender Roberto Luongo.  The lone goal came at 18:19 from Petr Sykora, his 10th of the season.  Sykora took a beautiful dish pass from Evgeni Malkin and ripped it past Luongo.  Georges Laraque picked up the other assist.  The Penguins outshout the Canucks 11-6, were 0 for 2 on the powerplay, and successfully killed 3 penalties of their own.

Despite a wide open 2nd period, neither team was able to put the puck in the net.  While the Penguins had control of the play early in the period, the Canucks picked it up and dominated play in the latter half of the frame.  At 13:43, an angry Ryan Malone stepped up in response to a late, uncalled crosscheck on linemate Sidney Crosby and unleashed a few fistfulls of retribution on Matt Cooke.  Malone was able to get in a few shots to the side of Cooke’s helmeted head before the refs stepped in and sent them both to the box for 5-minutes.  The Canucks outshot the Penguins 16-15, but both goaltenders were perfect in net and the Penguins left the period with their 1-0 lead intact. 

In the 3rd period, the Canucks got the equalizer at 3:40 on an even-strength goal by Ryan Kesler, with assists by Alex Burrows and Willie Mitchell.  The goal triggered an all out attack on the Penguins net shots in the period, while holding the Penguins to just 4-shots on goal.  Dany Sabourin played fantastically in net making several key saves to guarantee the Penguins at least a point in the affair, and forced the overtime.   

At 2:30 of the sudden death overtime,  the Penguins had a fantastic chance to win the game as Sidney Crosby got a breakaway chance at the end of his shift and was hauled down by Canuck’s defenseman Aaron Miller, resulting in a penalty shot.  Chasing Crosby down the ice, Miller dove down in an attempt to sweep the puck off Crosby’s stick.  Crosby somehow anticipated the play from behind and lifted Miller’s stick to prevent his contact with the puck.  The follow-through felled Crosby to the ice and the Penalty Shot was called.  Coach Therrien called a quick timeout to allow Crosby to get a quick break before the Penalty shot attempt.  Despite a great deke that got the tender to move, Crosby was denied on a fantastic play by Luongo who stayed with the play and threw his arm on the ice to stop the puck.  “I thought I had him,” Crosby said after the game.  “Those are opportunities that you thrive on. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in.”  The Penguins outshot the Canucks 2-1 in the OT period.    

In the shootout, Erik Christensen scored for the Penguins and Trevor Linden scored for the Canucks among the first 6-shooters before going to extra shooters.  Sabourin  stopped Kesler, Morrison, Pyatt, Naslund and Sedin.  Luongo stopped Sykora, Crosby, Malkin and Ruutu before facing rookie defenseman Kris Letang.  Letang won the game as he skated in on Luongo, faked left on the backhand and then went right and deposited the puck in the net on the forehand repeating his shootout heroics of the game against the Flames.  “I think I did the same thing as (Thursday) night,” Letang said. “I put a move in my head. I was scared a little bit that he saw the replay last night and that he’d remember that move. I just wanted to change it.”  The Penguins took the ice and surrounded Letang and Sabourin in celebration of the win and sweep of western Canada.  The win was Pittsburgh’s 4th straight and 7th in 8 games, and gave them 32-points for a 3-way 2nd place tie in the Atlantic Division, 2-points behind the Division leading Devils.  The Penguins are now 15-12-2. 

The Penguins close-up their 4-game road trip on Tuesday night in Philadelphia as the look to sweep their road trip. 

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