Home Pittsburgh Sports College Basketball Letang’s shootout goal lifts Penguins over Islanders

Letang’s shootout goal lifts Penguins over Islanders

Kris Letang scored on a backhander in the shootout and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 shots to lift the ‪‎Penguins‬ over the Islanders 2-1 Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

PITTSBURGH – Only a week ago the New York Islanders scored a late goal to steal a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders scored another crucial late goal on Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center, but it was the Penguins who came out on top this time with a 2-1 shootout victory.

Kris Letang, who logged nearly 32 minutes of ice time during the win, scored in the second round of the shootout while goaltender Marc Andre Fleury, who stopped 25 of 26 shots in his 30th win of the season, turned away shots by Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and John Tavares to earn the Penguins a valuable second point.

“It’s a big two points,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “We’re coming down to the 10-game mark, so every game it’s important to at least grab a point. So it was huge for us to get two here.”

Pittsburgh’s only goal came off of the stick of Chris Kunitz late in the first period. Kunitz, who was playing his 800th NHL game, managed to float toward the front of the net and tip a Dumoulin shot past rookie goaltender Jean-Francois Berube. It was Kunitz’s 14th goal of the season.

Through most of the evening, the Penguins dominated puck possession and earned the bulk of the game’s scoring chances. At one point in the second period, the Penguins held the puck in the attacking zone for 90 seconds uninterrupted.

But even though the Penguins were getting better shots than the Islanders, they had a tough time putting pucks past Berube. The rookie goaltender stopped 33 of 34 shots in the game and stood on his head to weather an overtime onslaught by the Penguins that resulted in seven scoring chances.

The Penguins were unable to expand their one-goal lead and paid for it in the third period when, while on the powerplay, Okposo found a way to get open underneath and collect a rebound goal 14:35 into the third period.

“I think we controlled that game for the most part,” Letang said. “It as just a question of finding a way to kill that power play at the end. They were good. They were buzzing around and got a goal. But, for the most part, we were creating more than they were.”

Before the ice opened up during the 3-on-3 overtime period, Tuesday night’s game was the kind of tight-checking, goaltender-reliant performance that will become more common as regular season play gives way to tough and gritty playoff hockey.

As both teams struggle to make up ground in this season’s tightly contested playoff field, there was a sense of desperation that is rarely present in the regular season until the weather starts warming up in March and April.

“There wasn’t a lot of ice out there and it was hard to get puck to the net,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we could’ve got more puck to the net, but they’re a good shot-blocking team. They defend hard. From that standpoint, I think this had a playoff feel to it.”

With the two points, the Penguins (37-24-8) have 82 points on the season. They are three points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the first Wild Card spot and three points behind the New York Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders (38-21-9) earned their 85th point and leapt to second place in the division. The Rangers also have 85 points, but the Islanders have two games in hand.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games after he was credited for a secondary assist on Kunitz’s goal.

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