PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – It was a game where the Pens had 16 giveaways, there were 88 total shots on net, 43 more blocked and 29 missed and a series of bounces that were just funny at times as the Pens found a way to win on a Kris Letang goal in overtime 7-6 over Florida on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if I had a bit of a laugh, I’m sure you guys might have,” Pens Head Coach Mike Sullivan quipped after the game. “It was an entertaining game, that’s for sure. There are a lot of talent on both teams. The entertainment value was off the charts. From a coaching standpoint, we would like it to be a tighter game.”
It’s part of the inconsistencies with this team, but at this point they were happy to get a win.
“Sometimes there are games you just can’t really explain,” said Pens Captain Sidney Crosby. “They don’t happen too often. There were some weird bounces and pucks seemed to find guys in different spots.”
“You don’t want those games too many times,” Letang said, “You can’t be on the wrong side of it. You have to learn from the mistakes, tighten up and play our game.”
“It was a weird game,” said Pens forward Ryan Poehling. “When it was 7-6, it’s not every night that it happens. I think everything was finding the nets, they had a lot of shots, we had a lot of shots. We knew that he was leaving a lot of rebounds, that’s how we scored a majority of our goals. Those games are weird.”
“It’s a long season and some games just go that way. You can’t get frustrated either way. I think you just have to stay in it and know those were two big points for us.”
As wild of a game and wild of a night, there was one thing that scripted out how most in the building would have liked. Not just the win, but who scored the game-winner.
Back for his first game since December 28 after the death of his father and an undisclosed injury, Letang scored the winner on an overtime power play just seconds after he was robbed by Panthers back-up goalie Alex Lyon who was played his fourth game of the season and faced 49 shots.
“It was kind of surreal,” Letang said of returning and finishing with a pair of goals and assists. “I didn’t know what to think or how it was going to go. These guys supported me for the last month. It’s just great to be back.”
“Couldn’t be happier for Tanger,” Sullivan said. “With everything that he’s been through over the last little while to come back and have the night that he had. It was an emotional night for him and the whole team for that matter. We are all living through it with him. Everyone was ecstatic to get Tanger back in the lineup and obviously you see the impact he has on our team.”
“It’s huge to have him back,” said forward Danton Heinen. “He’s been through a lot. He’s a resilient guy, he’s a big part of this team and this City. It was awesome to see him get that for sure.”
“So good to have him back,” said goalie Casey DeSmith. “He’s been working hard obviously off the ice and then back on the ice. He definitely came back when he was ready to come back. He was a huge part of the win.”
Tristan Jarry was announced as the starting goalie Tuesday morning, but when Jarry arrived to the rink this afternoon he told Sullivan he was unable to go due to an upper-body injury. Sullivan then found DeSmith as he was in the gym just before he was to get dressed and hit the ice for warmups.
It wasn’t easy for DeSmith and he also made mistakes, but ended up with a win giving up six goals with 33 saves.
How It Happened
First Florida goal was an ominous as Sam Reinhart was left all alone on the left side of the net, a pass over from Aaron Ekblad made it 1-0 just 6:42 into the game. Then a minute, twenty-six later the Panthers make it 2-0 on a Matthew Tkachuk power play goal after a Marcus Pettersson tripping penalty.
Pens scored the next three. Rickard Rakell would deflect an Evgeni Malkin shot to cut it to 2-1 at 10:56. Exactly one minute later, Danton Heinen buried a rebound from a Ryan Poehling shot and Letang redirected a shot-pass from Brian Dumoulin and the Pens were back in the lead with 1:46 to play in the period.
DeSmith would come out of the goal to play a puck in front of the net late in the period. Carter Verhaeghe heading for the same puck, the Panthers forward wins the battle and scored for a 3-3 mark after one period.
Sloppiness continued into the second period although only two goals. Pens on the power play, but it was Florida scoring. The fourth short-handed goal allowed on the season, Ekblad after a careless Jake Guentzel pass made it 4-3 at 10:34. This time the Pens made Florida pay as Guentzel floated a pass into the zone between three Panthers, none reacted to the puck as Sidney Crosby skated in, grabbed it, headed to the next and went backhand, five-hole to tie it again at 4.
An early giveaway again by the Pens and then Florida outworking the home team on the boards as Colin White eventually ends up with the puck, drives to the net and scored, Panthers ahead 5-4. Hard-working Drew O’Connor in a battle in front of the net off a Poehling shot whacked, and whacked and whacked and finally found the back of the net to tie it 5-5 mid-way through the period.
Evgeni Malkin would give the Pens the lead as he wound up and blasted one home on the power play only to be followed by another careless play that Verhaeghe scored on with 3:32 to play to eventually send it to overtime.
· Pens are 10-2 in its last dozen at home against Florida
· Letang’s fifth career four-point game, first since 2015
· Letang’s OT goal was his 31st career overtime point, tying Erik Karlsson for most OT points by a defenseman in NHL history
· 2nd time this season Letang, Crosby and Malkin each had at least three points
· Rakell has five goals in his last eight games
· Malkin’s 320th multi-point game of his career, tied him with Jaromir Jagr for third place on the team’s all-time multi-points list
Pens at Washington Thursday night at 7p for the second of three meetings this season.