Hockey players are taught from the time they lace up their first pair of skates to “play to the whistle.” Following the old adage to the hilt, the Penguins staged a furious rally from a 3-1 deficit Saturday night to beat Montreal on a disputed overtime goal by Kris Letang.
In a carryover of their offensive frenzy from Friday night, the Penguins wasted little time in lighting the lamp. On the game’s opening rush Chris Kunitz found Evgeni Malkin rambling down the slot. After kicking the puck off the post, Geno glided to the right of the net and tucked the rubber past goalie Carey Price for the game-opening goal.
Any hopes the Pens harbored for an easy night in La Belle Province quickly evaporated when Travis Moen knotted the score with an unassisted goal at 1:48. The Habs snatched a 2-1 lead six minutes later, thanks to an assist from an official. Pens defender Zbynek Michalek plunked a clearing attempt off a linesman to send Montreal in on a three-on-two break. David Desharnais fed Max Pacioretty, who cruised in and snapped the puck over Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove.
The Penguins appeared to even the score a minute into the second period. However, officials correctly ruled that Kunitz knocked the puck in with his glove, and the potential game-tying tally was waved off. Former Hurricane Erik Cole made it 3-1 at 11:09 when his bomb of a shot rang off a post, hit Fleury and bounced in.
Although spotting Jacques Martin’s crew a two-goal lead at the Bell Centre is the hockey equivalent of a death sentence, the Pens kept on slugging. Their efforts were rewarded with 3:20 left in the period when Paul Martin made a hustling play to poke the puck to Pascal Dupuis in the slot. In one fluid motion, “Super Duper” turned and hammered the puck in off both posts.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice Fleury kept the black and gold within striking distance with a series of highlight-reel stops, including a stunning glove save on Desharnais. Buoyed by Flower’s brilliance, the Pens appeared to knot the score again early in the third period when Kunitz shoved Price and the puck across the goal line. Once again, the goal was disallowed.
Refusing to yield, the Penguins finally drew even with 4:30 left in regulation. Malkin flattened Brian Gionta with a big hit in the neutral zone and spied Jordan Staal hopping off the bench. Taking Geno’s pass in full stride, Staal drove to the net and roofed the puck over Price to knot the score at 3-3.
Moments later the 6’3” Pacioretty leveled Letang with a vicious open-ice check just as he was releasing a shot. “Tanger” lay prone on the ice for several moments and had to be helped to the locker room. Although he was bleeding profusely from a broken nose, no penalty was called.
The stage was set for a dramatic finish. With blood stains spattered on the front of his jersey, Letang took to the ice for overtime. As the clock ticked under the three-minute mark the speedy defender burst into the Canadiens’ zone and ripped off a shot. Price appeared to freeze the puck long enough for a stoppage, but James Neal pried it loose for Letang. Number 58 promptly snapped home the game-winner.
“Justice has been served, folks,” play-by-play announcer Paul Steigerwald said in a fitting wrap-up to the game.
Letang earned the No. 1 star … Malkin (a goal and an assist) paced the Pens with two points … Letang and Malkin led the way with a game-high six shots apiece … The Pens out-shot the Canadiens 42-27 … The Habs won the face-off battle 43-25 … Crosby, Dupuis, Letang and Brooks Orpik each were plus-2 … Dustin Jeffrey, Ben Lovejoy, Steve MacIntyre, Richard Park, Alexandre Picard, and Brian Strait were scratches.
The Penguins (14-6-4) face-off against the Rangers (12-5-3) Tuesday night in New York. The Pens trail the all-time series (105-107-31).
*Be sure to check out Rick’s new book, “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” at TriumphBooks.com. It features 296 pages of bios, stories, anecdotes and photos from the team’s colorful past in a compelling, easy-to-read style. Whether you’re a die-hard booster from the days of Jean Pronovost or a big fan of Sid and Geno, this book is a must have for any true Penguins fan.
Don’t forget to check out Rick’s first book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and storied history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more.